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Why? (Write Fanfic, that is) - The Fandom Psychiatrist
October 4th, 2006
03:45 pm
[bibliophile20]

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Why? (Write Fanfic, that is)
Now here's a question that's often asked of me and one that seems to be very basic to the purpose of this community:

Why write fanfic in the first place? Why spend your energies writing something that is based off of a piece of fiction that isn't even yours and that is in the grey area of legality, when the majority of those that call themselves fans of that same piece of fiction do not themselves write fanfic?




Please note that this is not in reference to any one aspect or genre of fanfic, or to other aspects of fandom behavior such as essays or conventions; these will be addressed in detail in other posts later on. All this post is ask is: Why write it at all? Personal perspectives are welcome and encouraged.

Additionally, this post will form the basis of a poll at a later date to see how widespread the various reasons are; it seemed wise to get an idea of what the range of reasons there are to begin with before designing a poll to try and encompass them.

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From:bibliophile20
Date:October 4th, 2006 07:46 pm (UTC)
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I suppose that I should go first with my own reasons:
I started writing fanfic shortly after finishing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, somewhat upset at the semi-cliffhanger ending; I believe my precise thoughts at the time were: "Oh, no, she didn't leave it there, did she?" At that point I knew--very peripherally--of the existence of fanfic, and decided to go hunting on the Net; shortly thereafter, I found SIYE, and began reading some of the stories there. After that, my rather fertile imagination started to simmer, and I decided, now that I had an outlet for those scenes and images, to write them up and put them out there. It's been over a year now, and I still write, mostly to finish evicting those story ideas that have followed in the path of those first ones.

So, to summarize, I started writing fanfic due to (mild) dissatisfaction with canon and an overabundance of plot bunnies; that second reason is still the primary reason for my own writing.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and one other reason that I recently added: as a means to sharpen my own fiction-writing skills.
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From:redcoast
Date:October 4th, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)
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I wouldn't know. I don't write fanfic.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:October 4th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
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well, then why did you comment?

Or, here's a better question: What is your reason for not writing fanfic, even though you are, yourself, somewhat involved in online fandoms?
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From:redcoast
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC)
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1) Fear of flamewars and retribution for being a total bitch about other people's fanfiction;

2) Preference for working on my original fiction instead;

3) Difficulty capturing other author's and character's "voices" and a tendency to obsess over these details;

4) No interest in shipping. Which cuts out about three-fourths of all fanfic, maybe more.
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From:redcoast
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
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(Being more detailed) I tend to do my own thing with text, which usually is parody or commentary or both; my motivation is a mix of wanting to vent disatisfaction to an understanding audience or just to express my own ideas. That's why I write recaps and sporks occasionally, anyway. So, my motivations and output are very similar to yours, only I don't write it in fanfiction form.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC)
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I can see that; recently I feel like I've shifted over to your perspective; I am still active in the fandom, yet my fanfic output has dropped dramatically.
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From:redcoast
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
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I have written a couple of things for friends, though. I should also admit that I don't read fanfiction for pleasure.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
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My reading of fanfic has dropped dramatically of late; a, I don't have the time, b, the quality is very uneven, so I stick to just a few authors, and c, I had a case of mild HP burnout earlier over the summer--I just needed some time away.
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From:redcoast
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad I've made a few friends who share the same interests as me without being involved in fandom, per se. I can always fall back on Jane Austen.

What I meant to say was that the fact that I don't read fanfic probably has something to do with the fact that I don't write it. Or the other way around.
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From:thistlerose
Date:October 4th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
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Initially - in my experience, anyway - fanfic was a means of exploring the things that Rowling - or whatever author - probably would not. I tend to wonder about what happens between scenes, and I like to write, so I combined the two.

Nowadays... It's still mostly about exploration, but there's definitely a social element. I'm my primary audience, but I am usually aware of other people when I write and, er, attempt to entertain.
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From:daylightsparks
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)
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I never thought I'd end up writing fanfiction, even though I've written original fiction for many years. For me, it's a matter of really liking the characters and wanting to explore them more thoroughly than they are in canon - for instance, filling in their backstories, or putting them into new situations or interactions. Also, there's a social aspect - I like sharing my enthusiasm with other fans and getting feedback and critique. Original fiction is ultimately more satisfying to write (because there's a sense of accomplishment from making it all up yourself), but it's also more difficult, and the social aspect is missing. It's a monologue rather than a dialogue.
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From:a_t_rain
Date:October 4th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)
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I think there are two main camps: people who write fanfic because they are totally in love with the source material and they feel like they absolutely must have more of it right NOW, and people who write because they are vaguely (or profoundly) dissatisfied with the source material and they want to fix the bits that aren't to their taste. I'm not saying that a writer can't switch from one side to the other, or that most of us don't incorporate some aspects of both of these positions, but it's usually pretty easy to identify which side a given writer falls on most of the time.

This probably explains about 90% of the wank in fandom, by the way.
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From:reciprokates
Date:October 4th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
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I never really wrote any fanfiction, appart from having a whole AU story mapped out, which I just can't seem to get going in chapter form.
Motivation for that was mainly, because I really would like to read it and have it in a written form and not just my imagination, where it changes always slightly and has not as many details and stuff gets lost.

Another thing I could imagine would be, the want to write something, but finding it really hard to start from zero. My mother calles it "scare of the blank page" (tried to translate her German saying). So taking something that is already existing is easiser than to come up with every detail and everything by yourself. Furthermore the chance that you get feedback with original stories is probably smaller than in fandom with fanficiton (just a assumtion, tell me if I'm wrong). So if you write to train your writing skills fanfiction makes it easier to improve.
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From:melisus
Date:October 4th, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)
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I started writing fanfic when I was twelve shortly after the release of The Prisoner of Azkaban. I don't exactly know why I started writing fanfic, because I suppose I'd done little bits and pieces of it for other fandoms (unofficially) for a few years beforehand.

I think I write fanfiction just because of the way ideas hit me. Sometimes I do think canon should have gone in a different direction (for example, my fic "Beyond the Veil" deals with the lack of explanation Rowling supplied us for WHY Sirius is dead) but most of the time I just end up getting basic plot ideas or inspiration and it happens to come in the form of a pre-existing series.

For me, it could also be habit. My friends and I used to cook up mini stories for some of the games we liked to play (Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon) and that could be considered fanfiction because while we weren't dealing with any pre-existing chracters, we were using a pre-existing world to work in (my short-lived days of playing D&D helped spawn my fanfic writing as well).

And why put my efforts into fanfic instead of original fiction? Because I simply don't want to pursue a career in writing and so I haven't ever decided that perhaps instead of playing with pre-existing characters and pre-existing worlds I'll make up my own. I've just never really felt like it.
From:tajareyul
Date:October 4th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)
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Why write fanfic? Hm. I never really thought about why. I suppose partly because it's easier than writing from scratch.

Incidentally, I've been creating fanfiction since I was five years old. I can't say that I was writing it back then, but I definitely made up stories about Sccoby-Doo and about Batman. At that time I simply wanted to be part of those adventures, so the stories I made up were of the self-insertion variety. Later, into my teens, I began creating original characters and grafting them into the original works. I didn't know the term "fanfiction" and had no idea that other people wrote it too.

In a way, I suppose I fall into the "dissatisfied with the original story" camp. The kind of fanfics that I most love to read are the stories that focus on peripheral characters. I always want to know what was going on with minorcharacterX while the protagonist is busy with his/her grand struggle.

I've found that if a particular group of characters or fictional world really captures my attention, I can't help but imagine my own stories in that setting.

Wow. As I read over that I realized it was really very random. You definitely got unprocessed reaction there.
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From:author_by_night
Date:October 6th, 2006 01:42 am (UTC)
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I pretty much did the exact same thing. I was possibly younger than five.

For me, fanfiction has just been... almost a way of life. I read a story, or see a movie/play, and want to know the backstory, the ending, etc. I want to know why things happened and what happens next.

And the awesome - if slightly wanky - community doesn't hurt either. All the wanky crap aside, I've made some of my dearest friends here, and seen incredible instances of true friendship... that outweighs the bad by far.
From:kezzamorphosis
Date:October 6th, 2006 06:42 am (UTC)
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Thirding the comment, and at as much of a young age. Dreams of being a writer of my very own Oz book--I'd started reading at the age of four and had already figured out the rudiments of plot and such.

Sure, I wouldn't want to read that long-lost manuscript these days, but I remember sitting in front of my mom's 1927 Underwood, trying to put the ideas I had on paper before I really knew how to write anything of value.

I spent many years exchanging fictions by snail mail with a good friend who lived completely at the other side of the country from me (WA to FL). We would revel in each other's stories, and they created a bond for us that we had with no one else.

Writing fanfic has, as has already been stated, been good for my writing. It has helped me through several chronic cases of writer's block and refined my research techniques, as I'm the type of writer who wants to please those who are into the details as much as the passive reader.
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From:spidergirl30
Date:October 4th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
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I write fanfic because that makes me feel calm from a stressful life as I have.
Because I love Ron and Hermione´s relationship.
Beucause Ron reminds me when I was a teen (Yeah I´m a woman alike with Ron)
And because I love making new scenarios for Ron and Hermione living in a future after book seven.That ´s all I think :)
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From:magentabear
Date:October 5th, 2006 12:16 am (UTC)
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I think there about ten billion different reasons for getting started in the fandom (dissatisfaction with an element of the plot, boredom, desire to be a better writer, devotion to the author/character, etc) but I think that anyone who keeps writing fanfic is doing it because it's fun. Why else would we do something semi-illegal, something that many people think is downright strange, if we didn't enjoy it at least a little bit? This is a break from reality, a way to play with characters we love and a place to interact with people who love the orignial source as much as we do. It's a hobby--nothing more, nothing less.
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From:jedirita
Date:October 5th, 2006 03:27 am (UTC)
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Here via Hogwarts Today.

Why write fanfic in the first place?

Simple answer: because it's fun. Because a particular story universe captures my imagination and I want to play in it more. That's it, really.

Why spend your energies writing something that is based off of a piece of fiction that isn't even yours and that is in the grey area of legality,

I spend my energies doing things that I find fun and entertaining, otherwise why would I bother spending my energy on it? I don't really give a damn about copyright. My imagination is my own, and I'll use it wherever and however I want to. Nobody owns my imagination. If somebody doesn't want me to imagine things about a story they wrote, then they shouldn't have shared it in the first place. (Copyright, by the way, originally meant that the author retains the right to make a profit from their own work. It NEVER meant that a person owned the sole right to control ideas they created. NO ONE owns ideas.)

when the majority of those that call themselves fans of that same piece of fiction do not themselves write fanfic?

Why in the world should it matter to me what other people do? There are plenty of ways that people express their love for something. They may do art. They may attend conventions. They may build props. They may make costumes. They may buy tie-in merchandise. They may just read the books 80,000 times. It doesn't matter whether everyone expresses themselves in the same way or not. One thing I don't have much tolerance for is people saying, "My type of fannishness is okay, but yours is WEIRD." We're all fans together, even if we express it in different ways.
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From:rexluscus
Date:October 5th, 2006 06:17 am (UTC)
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Hello! I'm here via one of the newsletters.

Why spend your energies writing something that is based off of a piece of fiction that isn't even yours and that is in the grey area of legality, when the majority of those that call themselves fans of that same piece of fiction do not themselves write fanfic?

I never really thought about the legality, or about what the rest of the fans were doing. I'd never met a single other Harry Potter fan when I started writing. I don't see it as a "stepping stone" to a legitimate writing career, or even as valid or invalid artform. I do it entirely for personal satisfaction. Whatever way my emotional investment in Harry Potter works, it seems to want to emerge as fanfic - reading it and writing it. I would probably do it even if nobody else were, and just reread the stuff I wrote. That would be far less satisfying than sharing it, of course. It's like being six years old again and playing pretend with your friends.
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From:ratcreature
Date:October 5th, 2006 07:55 am (UTC)
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While I don't write fanfic, I would if my creative writing skills were better, and also the majority of what I read is fanfic, so I definitely see the attraction, and it's not as if I don't imagine scenarios with my favorite characters in my head anyway.

So as a reader (and I think writers like fanfic for similar reasons) beyond the aspects of getting more of what you love, and filling in the blanks or fixing incongruities of the source, for me the main appeal is that unlike with original characters you don't have to spend all that time getting to know them (exposition, character introduction etc) which is rather tedious, and can get right into those parts of stories that give you emotional pay-off with characters that you already know and love.

Fanfic is comforting because you are already familiar with the characters, the universe is like an old friend, and you can get into more depths that way, just like the appeal of watching a long running tv series over two hour movies,or reading a series over reading individual novels.

Also obviously you don't get porn with your favorite characters from TPTB, and the same goes for any number of other things (it's not like you get, say, h/c epics either).
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From:auctasinistra
Date:October 5th, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)

Here via Hogwarts Today

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Why spend your energies writing something that is based off of a piece of fiction that isn't even yours and that is in the grey area of legality, when the majority of those that call themselves fans of that same piece of fiction do not themselves write fanfic?

I don't think most of us who write it proceed from this position - that is, we aren't thinking any of that when we start writing fanfic. We read a book (for instance, referring to HP), we love the world and the characters, and we want more of it. Sometimes we want to take the characters in a direction only we see, sometimes we simply want more of what we've already been given. We're having fun and we don't want it to stop; those who write continue the fun that way. Those who don't write continue the fun by reading fanfic, talking about the books, re-reading the books ... we're simply taking the writerly approach to staying in a place we enjoy.
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From:lisarene
Date:October 5th, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
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I think I originally started writing fanfic because even though I was an English major in college, I hadn't done any creative writing, or read much fiction for that matter, for years. And then I discovered HP and all of a sudden, I was interested in reading again. And characters and plotlines and imagination and telling stories. These were characters I could love and empathize with and really sink my teeth into.

I started with several one-shots written mainly for fic contests. It just felt so good to be able to express myself creatively again. And then I felt this full-length novel bubbling up in me and I couldn't not write it. Once I got deeper into the story and characters, I realized that fanfic was a tremendous opportunity for me to work through some issues in my own life, to look at my past relationships and self-esteem issues from a 3rd person perspective, which was really enlightening.

Plus, being able to say "I wrote a novel" is a hugely satisfying accomplishment.

So to boil it down, I'd say I write fic for creative outlet and personal fulfillment.
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From:threnody
Date:October 6th, 2006 01:57 am (UTC)
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Same reason I write at all. Because the voices tell me to. I get an idea, and it won't leave me alone until I get it down on proverbial paper (I've never actually written well on paper, it's always been the comp for me). Once it's out? Doesn't pester me anymore. Which is why I have 238456273 snippets of fic that'll never be finished. I don't actually like writing, and wish ideas would leave me alone. But there you are.
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From:heron_advocate
Date:October 6th, 2006 02:28 am (UTC)
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Here via daily_snitch.


Well, I don't know about everyone, but I'll try to explain why I do it.

When I get interested in a new fandom, my mind sort of goes crazy with "OMG what if ____ happened?" ideas. Which, really, is the basis of most fanfiction. I think sometimes we write because we want to go in a different direction than the creator, and other times because we want to fill in some holes.

In the case of a fandom like HP (or some movie fandoms), I think it's a good way of keeping the fandom alive. Having years between canon is kind of a hindrance on discussions - you can only discuss things so much before it just comes boring and repetitive (which seems to be less of a problem with anime/manga/cartoon/tv fandoms).

I'm not an aspiring writer or anything, but it does give me a chance to exercise my creativity, and it's made me many friends. :) Basically - I do it because it's fun, and also because I want to contribute to fandom. ^^
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From:imbaskinrobbins
Date:October 6th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
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I'm here via The Daily Snitch.

I wrote my first fanfiction when I was six, but the reasons for that are rather simpler. I thought it was fun to play with JK Rowling's world, and I didn't understand the law enough to know that I couldn't make money by selling my new HP "book". I learned soon after I started, but that didn't deter me.
Now, I think it's a combination of my earlier reason that it really is just fun, and that it helps improve my writing. It's easier to write fanfiction than original fiction, as the world and characters are already set up as a starting point, all you have to do is make things up to happen in that world, with those characters. It's a way to work on refining your writing style without having to get hung up on having the perfect details. You simply sit down, pick a few of the characters and a vague plot, then let your imagination go wild. You brought up the majority of fans not writing fanfic, but the majority probably aren't writers.
Other times, people write fanfic to explore a relationship, character, or brief occurrence further than the canon has or will. If a shipper is frustrated that they don't see nearly enough, if any of their ship, they can write the scenarios that exist only in their heads. With "hidden scenes" (I'm forgetting the correct terminology at the moment), writers can speculate on exactly what happened, as is the case with the numerous, "Snape is tricked into going to the Shrieking Shack" fics in Harry Potter fandom.
Some people, of course prefer to keep their imagined tales in their own heads, as they feel they risk ruining them if transferred to paper or screen, others are most satisfied with the pure canon, and some would rather leave the fic writing up to people who they believe to be better at the trade than them. The people not satisfied with these solutions, they are the fans who write fanfiction.
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From:chicafrom3
Date:October 6th, 2006 04:50 am (UTC)
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Here via metafandom.

Why do I write fanfic? Partly because I can. Partly because it's a great stress release; I write original fiction, too, but original fiction I'm invested in the characters as their creator, to the degree that it can get terribly stressful. Fanfic doesn't have that caveat for me. Partly because there are so many places I'd like to see a specific canon go that I know it won't, so it's up to me to do it.

Also, partly because I have a habit of falling in love with incredibly minor characters, and so the only way to indulge in my love is to write stories for them, since canon won't do it.
From:anna_wing
Date:October 6th, 2006 05:50 am (UTC)
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Hello, here from metafandom

I write Tolkien fanfic, only, and have never felt like writing anything else. I have no ambitions to write original fiction; my day job suits me perfectly well. My interest in Tolkien is not in individual characters but in the world, and in arguing with certain of the fundamental assumptions of Tolkien's worldbuilding. So I write mostly Silmarillion genfic, because that is where there are large gaps for my own worldbuilding, and where the questions of freedom and responsibility and fate that interest me are both pertinent and obvious.
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From:lilacsigil
Date:October 6th, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
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Why do anything that isn't professional? I make art quilts and greeting cards, write fanfic (and have done since I was 5 or so), make art journals, like to debate philosophy and politics, do crosswords, sew clothing and used to play sport. None of this has any bearing on my job, and none of it makes me money. All of it is fun, creative, keeps my brain active, links me to other like-minded people and makes me happy.

I think people who call themselves "fans" but don't write, debate, draw, dress up, make Sims or otherwise get creative with their fandom are passive consumers.
From:kezzamorphosis
Date:October 6th, 2006 06:45 am (UTC)
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I think people who call themselves "fans" but don't write, debate, draw, dress up, make Sims or otherwise get creative with their fandom are passive consumers.

I like your thinking!
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From:bloodrebel333
Date:October 8th, 2006 03:38 am (UTC)
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:)
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From:starwatcher307
Date:October 6th, 2006 05:57 am (UTC)
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.
It's hard to pin down. Partly I like the characters so much; I want to celebrate the relationship between them (gen, although I enjoy reading slash) instead of developing my own universe and characters. Partly to enjoy the creativity; it's not unusual for me to re-read a section that I've just edited / polished and say, "DAMN, I'm good!" Partly I simply enjoy the actual writing process, the way a woodworker enjoys the process of crafting a fine piece of furniture. And yes, points 2 and 3 would occur as easily if I wrote original fiction, but see point 1 again.

But really, the question seems that it might be based on society's perception that fanfic is a "waste of time". No one asks, "Why do you like gardening," or "Why do you like crossword puzzles?" In my view, the more appropriate question would be, "Why not write fanfic?" As someone mentioned above, ultimately, we write fanfic because it's fun.

If you're interested, I discussed "why write fanfic instead of original fic" in my own journal here.

Then I wrote a companion post, discussing whether fanfic is crap or quality, here.
.
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From:solo
Date:October 6th, 2006 07:26 am (UTC)
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Because I love the characters, and because I spend time thinking about them, and because I had a 'what if' idea and I needed to write it. For myself.
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From:graumoewe
Date:October 6th, 2006 08:06 am (UTC)
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I don't write, since I don't enjoy writing very much, but I read a lot, and I guess the reasons are not so much different. I want to see the characters in new situations, where canon would not go, I want to see more of the minor characters, I want to see canon things from the perspective of other characters.

What's also important is that since I know the canon I can feel at once immersed in the story. With original stories it takes quite some time to establish the world in my head and get a picture of the characters, and I don't always enjoy this starting from scratch.
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From:amanuensis1
Date:October 6th, 2006 10:12 am (UTC)
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Because I fell in love and couldn't not.
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From:bloodrebel333
Date:October 8th, 2006 03:26 am (UTC)
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Because we care. Because we cannot read a good book or watch a good film without thinking about alternatives, about what-ifs, and and-what-mores, and what-nexts. Because we already spend those hours thinking about it, dreaming about it, crying over it.

Because writing it makes it immortal.

Because knowing others feel the same and others care as much and others can be touched by our words makes the unrealness of it slightly more bearable.

Because it forms friendships. Because it makes us laugh and cry and dream and gasp.

Because we watch. Because we love. Because we care.
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