Fanfiction has taken the teen reading world by storm. With 40 million stories uploaded to Wattpad alone, teens are getting inspired by stories, and have begun writing their own. But how has this all happened, and what has fanfiction really done for teen reading?
WHAT IS FANFICTION?
The Conversation says that “Fanfiction is a genre of amateur fiction writing that takes, as its basis, a “canon” or “original” material. As we briefly discussed in last weeks post, fanfiction is a part of fandom! ‘Fanworks’ “seek to expand the narrative universe” of a story. It allows its (mostly teenage) writers to take characters and plots from their favourite books, TV shows and films, and create their own new ones! These new stories can range across thousands of different worlds, time periods, and even cross over with other popular stories, and — here’s the important part — it’s all free!
HOW BIG IS FANFICTION?
Reaaaaaally big. In fact, fanfiction writer Hazal Kirci says that it’s a “global sensation in young adult literature.” There are many sites where young people are writing and sharing their fan fiction online. Wattpad and Fanfiction.net are huge examples. Since its founding in 1998, “FFN has become the most popular fanfiction website, with over two million users and stories in more than 30 languages.” Also, users of Wattpad have spend a whopping total of 41bn minutes on the website! So that’s what teens are doing on their phones all day.
SO WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON TEEN READING?
Literacy Worldwide says that:
“Fanfiction is one example of how technology can empower young adults…”
… in terms of their reading and writing. It can definitely be seen as something that is encouraging teens to interact with each other creatively online. And if it’s anything like the findings we got about fandom last week, it could have led to more teens being inspired to read the original “canon” work.
However, fanfiction can be so “exhilarating”, that one teen reader “abandoned “real” fiction for a while,” in order to spend all her time reading fanfiction — often finishing 40 chapter stories in a day! While there’s debate on what qualifies as “real” fiction, there’s a possibility that fanfiction is enticing teens away from traditionally published works, and into new online stories written by their peers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. I mean, if teens are reading fan fiction, even instead of what Margaret Atwood calls “Literature, capital L,” they’re still reading! Fiction is fiction, and teens are definitely reading it, as can be seen through some staggering statistics! CNN says that:
“Kids writing and reading: What’s not to love?”
And we can’t argue with that! “Most readers know that stories have an uncanny ability to spark one’s own creativity and inspiration,” according to Hazal Kirci. She even says her sister’s English grade improved after she got into reading Wattpad stories online! That can never be a bad thing… right?
FANFICtion PUTS THE SOCIAL IN SOCIAL MEDIA
Fanfic is social, there’s no doubt about it. CNN says that “part of the fun of fanfiction is the community that develops around specific characters, plot lines, authors, and subjects” — something that even published authors can struggle to do without the help of digital media. If you remember, a theme that came up in our exploration of BookTube was one of “community”. In fact, this idea is becoming a theme across many elements of digital media in regards to teen reading. From this, we can say that the digital sphere has given teenagers the space to connect and explore literature together.
FANFICTION IS MAKING ITS WAY INTO PUBLISHING!
Teens can now also read about fan fiction in published YA books! Hit 2017 release by Francesca Zappia, Eliza and Her Monsters, follows Eliza, a high-schooler, popular comic book artist and sufferer of anxiety. When her webcomic’s biggest fanfiction writer arrives at school, she’s see a world to explore offline, as well as on.
Wattpad also has the power to put fanfiction writers into professional publishing! That’s right — 18-year-old fanfiction writer Beth Reekles received a book deal with Random House US after publishing her fanfiction story on Wattpad. Now, The Kissing Booth is a major motion picture, and Reekles has become as one of Time Magazine’s most influential teens!
Not only that, but popular YA authors also love fan fiction! Authors Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries and Airhead) and Neil Gaiman (the Sandman series) have previously written fanfiction. So has Alexa Donne, who says that the medium can be useful in “developing excellent writing skills.”
Amongst a fear of teens spending too much time on their phones and not enough time reading, fan fiction — like eBooks — has become a way for teens to merge their online culture with a love for literature, whatever form it may be in. Teens may not be reading “real” literature, but they’re definitely reading stories inspired by it.