High quality fanfiction? Ain’t no such thing, or is there?
If you’re reading this, you probably have at least some inkling of what fanfiction is. Or that it exists. Perhaps you’ve heard it mentioned a passing conversation with your otaku-ish friend. Or you’ve heard it spoken about in the most scathing tones by authors or your more literary minded associates. Or maybe you, yourself, are a fanfiction writer.
Fanfiction (also spelled fan fiction) is essentially fiction created by fans rather than the original creator. It’s a tricky beast in that it exists both in the work’s canonical universe (canon or canon-verse) and by its very nature, exists separate from it. Most fan fiction is written under the assumption that the audience will be other fans or those familiar with the fandom.
Fanfiction, though it’s blossomed with the advent of the internet, is not a new phenomenon. The idea of borrowing another author’s characters is hardly a modern idea. Renowned authors and renewed works are essentially fanfics of older works.
Everyone’s heard of Shakespeare, right? Early modern/Renaissance English playwright who wrote some darned good plays? Turns out that most of the stories in his plays were taken from other sources, including Boccacio’s Decameron (The Two Gentlemen from Verona), Grammaticus’s Gesta Danorum (Hamlet), and Brooke’s “The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet”) (Romeo and Juliet) to name a fair few. And don’t even get me started on the Arthurian romances…there are so many versions out there that you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint the original author of the story’s first iteration (at least you know it’s not Browning…or Tennyson…or even Malory).
“Legitimately literary” examples aside, fanfiction’s been around for a while…and it’s here to stay. But it’s a perilous jungle out there. Finding a good fanfic is akin to seeking the Holy Grail–way easier in theory than in practice. It’s a quest that requires a great deal of patience and tolerance of surfing through fics with appallingly atrocious writing on all levels, from mechanical to thematic.
Does this mean we should avoid fanfiction altogether, lest our virgin eyes be forever scarred by the monster of rabidly fannish prose? No, but unless you’d want to spend countless hours adrift the treacherous waters of highly conscious, self-fulfilling fics most likely written by teenagers (who may or may not have a vague sense of what decent writing looks like) you’re probably looking for ways to look for the good stuff.
As hard it may believe, there are good fanfics out there. You just have to know how and where to look. And that’s what this post series will endeavor to guide readers–both new and experienced–to mining for good fics in the most time efficient ways possible.
Part I – Top 9 Characteristics of Good Fanfiction: Before we go off and start looking for good fanfiction, it’s a good idea to know what good fanfiction looks like. What makes fanfiction good? Every reader is different (and of course, there are plenty of fans who are perfectly willing to put out with all sorts of bad habits in their fanfiction) but are there qualities that certain fanfiction of a more literary caliber share?
Part II – Best Practice for Finding Good Fanfiction on Fanfiction.Net: Now that we have a handle on what good fanfiction looks like, our first stop is Fanfiction.net. For better or for worse, Fanfiction.net is the Internet’s largest repository of fanfiction. This means that there are a lot of good fics. This also means there are a lot of bad ones to wade through first. Luckily, Fanfiction.net has a set of handy search filters that can dramatically raise your chances of striking literary gold.
Part III – How to Wrangle Good Fics: Introduction to the Archive’s Tagging System: Archive of Our Own (or AO3 for short) is a relatively young but rapidly growing home for many fanworks, including fanfiction. Their robust and unique tagging search system makes good fanfics both easier and difficult to find.
Part IV – Refining Your Reading Approach: Best Practices for Finding Good Fanfiction: For most fanfiction readers, FF.net and AO3 will give you all the fics you could possibly want to read. But for the hardcore few who’ve combed through every fic and page in the archives and want more, there are other fanfics waiting to be found. I go over some other websites that house fanfics or fanfic links (i.e. TV Tropes, Wattpad, Livejournal, Tumblr, etc) and other ways to ferret out good fics not found in mainstream fanfic sites.
Note: While this series will discuss fanfiction and search strategies in general, discussion and examples will be primarily drawn from anime fandoms, in lieu with the reader demographics for this blog.