Fanfiction: What is it and How it Impacts You


The homepage of a fan fiction website, Archive of Our Own (Cr: Screenshot taken by Ember DuPont)

Everyone has a favorite show that was canceled one season too early or a video game in a franchise that just didn’t measure up to the rest.  Many people accept that: they can love the things they’ve always loved about the media and forget the downfalls. Some people just can’t do that and instead write fan fiction or fanfics.

Simply put, fanfics, also known as derived work, are stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans. It’s media that is by fans for fans, allowing them to change things that they find controversial or to add on to a story. But it’s not just a new thing!

Derived literary works have been around for as long as we’ve had literature. For example, Homer’s epic poem The Iliad (Written in 7th century BC) had a small side character by the name of Aeneas. Another author, Virgil, took that character and wrote The Aeneid (Written in 30-19 BC), which was very clearly inspired by the style of Homer. 

The majority of modern fanfiction is posted online to a variety of websites. The largest of these websites have been found to be, and Archive of Our Own (Ao3) with 90 million, 12 million, and almost 6 million users respectively. Ao3 actually did a report in 2020 saying they had 2.5 million users showing lots of in fanfiction writing and reading over the pandemic. 

The tags on fan fiction Skyline students read (Cr: Made by Ember DuPont)

While many people like to read their fanfic online, there are others who like to read in physical form. “The fanfiction that I read is usually based off of a classic like Pride and Prejudice” says AP Literature teacher, Carina Seitz, “So I really only read published novels instead of fanfiction you find on the internet.”

Many of the books that are marketed as original characters actually start as fanfiction. Notable books include 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James which was a Twilight fanfic and Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, which started as a Star Wars fanfic.

Fanfic is obviously well loved, so why do people enjoy it? “I love the idea of a side character who is underdeveloped in a story and all of a sudden they get their own backstory,” says Seitz, “My favorite work of fanfiction is called Wide Sargasso Sea. That is the backstory of Bertha from Jane Eyre.” 

This sentiment of fans seeing their small background characters represented seems to be shared by

Pie chart of the websites Skyline students use to read fan fiction, In percents (Cr: Made by Ember DuPont)

many readers and even writers. “I like that my Glup Shitto (a term coined on Tumblr meaning a favorite obscure background character, originally referring to obscure Star Wars side characters) gets focused on,” Avni Gupta (24’) says.

 When asked about why they like writing fanfiction, Gupta said, “I get to experiment with my writing without having to focus too much on character development . . . It’s a good, almost experimental form of writing.”