I first learned about fan fiction when I was in seventh grade. I was at a sleepover with a friend, and we decided to watch Newsies. If you are involved in theater in any way or are a female born around the year 1992, you know the movie I’m talking about. Disney’s box office flop, nominated for five Razzie awards. With music by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, the movie musical is based on the 1899 newsboys’ strike in New York City. Newsies is a story of ragged boys living on the street who band together to stand up to Joseph Pulitzer in a David versus Goliath showdown.
But let’s be real here. This movie is not a cult hit, watched and revered by so many people that it got a second life as a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, just because of its enduring themes. No, this movie is a cult hit because it features a lot of attractive guys singing, dancing, and doing pelvic thrusts.
I remember watching Newsies that night, and when this scene with Christian Bale came on I stopped breathing. There was something about Jack Kelly, a brooding anti-hero of sorts, that captivated me, that spoke to me. So when I got home the next day, I got on our family computer and started researching Newsies, learning everything I could about the film. That was the day I stumbled upon fan fiction.
Fan fiction is comprised of stories that fans write about characters in existing books, movies, television, etc. and post to the internet. I found a whole community of people online who also loved Newsies and wrote stories involving characters from the film. Some of the stories were horrid and poorly written. But there were some stories that were well written, with developed characters, humor, and insight. After reading some fan fiction, I decided to write some of my own because I couldn’t get this story out of my head.
I ended up writing fan fiction for the next five years, about a variety of books, films, and television shows. And part of me is embarrassed of this fact. There is a lot of stigma surrounding fan fiction, but I used it as a way to explore characters and continue stories that I love.
I’m not the only writer who is inspired by the work of others. S.E. Hinton, the author of The Outsiders, writes Supernatural fan fiction in her spare time. Neil Gaiman, the Newberry Award-winning author of The Graveyard Book, the Sandman comics, and American Gods, has written The Chronicles of Narnia, H.P. Lovecraft, and Sherlock Holmes fan fiction. There is something about certain stories that is incredibly powerful. There are stories and characters that stay with readers and viewers for a long time, and even famous authors are susceptible to this.
Clare and I have talked a lot about fan fiction over the years because we used to write a lot of it together. Over the next week or so we’re going to be doing a series of posts about this topic because it keeps popping up in current events, like Amazon’s new project Kindle Worlds. Fan fiction is a controversial subject, and in our next post we hope to lay out some of the pros and cons that we’ve discovered about fan fiction as seasoned veterans of the genre.