20 comments on “Harry Potter and the Fan Fiction Factory

  1. Great post, and one that reflects some of my own thinking on writing and audience. Coincidentally, a colleague of mine uses Convergence Culture as the primary text in his College Composition II class, and he’s been very successful with it.

  2. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the comments. I only recently discovered Jenkins – and consequently fan fiction – as I was researching ‘transmedia’, so it has been a bit of an eye-opener for me. I would be really interested to know what percentage of teenagers in the US and the UK are involved in fan fiction in one way or another and the extent to which their teachers are aware of it.

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  4. Although it irrefutably teaches writing through practice, 95% of the time, a fanfiction is written about characters, not plot. “Shipping” is the fan term for romantically pairing characters together, and most fanfiction exists to tell a romantic story within one or more of the author’s ships. Even on many websites, like fanfiction.net, the search is built to search characters one and two, who are the pairing.
    While that sounds less than promising to the writing community, fanfiction can still be a challenge that helps a young writer grow. No one enjoys a fanfic with poor grammar or plot. Being ooc, or out of character is a huge turnoff to the reader. Not only beta readers, but also other readers will be quick to point this out in a comment, and usually they do so constructively.
    Above all else though, it’s hard to fault fanfiction for being one of the only things motivating large numbers of teens to write on their own time. Writing is learned through practice.

    • Thanks for the response Lauren. Not sure that I fully understand ‘shipping’ – is it the original author’s pairing of characters or the fanfiction writer’s? – but I do agree that anything which encourages teenagers to write in their own time has to be a good thing.


  5. I read your article with interest. I am an SF writer who teaches writing at university level. I’ve been writing fanfiction for about twenty years, and would not have a career in writing without it. Eleven years ago, I was happily writing fanfiction and posting it to the Internet to be read by a small circle of friends, when I received an email from the editor of a range of TV tie-in novels inviting me to pitch to the series. Hallelujah! This year will be my tenth in print.

    At the start of each academic year, I introduce myself to new classes as an SF writer and a fanfiction writer, and I tell that story about my route to publication. There is always at least one student who reacts with absolute delight that her (usually her) hobby is not something to be shy about, or to feel she has to keep secret, or that it’s silly in some way. I’d like to think that this can be liberating for a young writer: to realise that she’s free to write whatever she likes, and perhaps to begin thinking about what she likes writing and why. As I think we all know, the best thing for anyone who wants to write is – to be writing! My message to students is simply: “It’s OK to write what you like to write, you’ll probably do a better job if you’re enjoying yourself, and here’s evidence that it’s not a waste of time. Shall we try stepping outside of your comfort zone?”

    “Shipping” refers to a genre of stories, i.e. relationship-orientated stories, and can refer to relationships that already exist in the originating text, or relationships that the author and her readers have brought to or found latent in the text. I agree with the above commenter that a large proportion of fanfiction is character-orientated and, particularly, concerned with exploring relationships between characters – as is much of what we call literary fiction. More specifically, a great deal of fanfiction is quite short: vignette-length or shorter, written for quick challenges, or for entertainment, or perhaps simply to cheer up a friend. Many fanfiction writers do attempt projects of increasing complexity, particularly as they enter their early twenties (which is often when the first serious attempt at a novel happens). That was my own trajectory.

  6. Una,
    Thanks for your contribution – much appreciated! I think your story is not only interesting in itself but it also provides a very positive message for any aspiring young writer who may be starting out and needing a bit of a confidence boost. I will certainly be sharing it with others when the opportunity arises, which it most definitely will in the weeks and months ahead. Thanks also for clarifying the concept known as ‘shipping’ and good luck with your own writing.

    Best wishes,

  7. Fanfic has some very interesting alleys – I don’t know if you’ve discovered them. I happen to know several people of my own age (!) who became friends through writing slash fanfic based on The Man from Uncle. I can’t say I found what I’ve seen to be interesting to anyone outside the fanbase, though – too much banal adherence to the canon for it to be ‘real’.

  8. I must confess I haven’t really spent any time on the site Chris but thanks for taking the trouble to comment. My real interest was in the number of young people using fanfic to develop their writing outside of a formal educational context (school) and the extent to which their teachers may or may not be aware of it.

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