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Using Fan Fiction to Inspire and Transform Student Writing

My five-year-old nephew asked me to tell him a story the other night. He wanted one about Batman, so I told him about the time I was invited back to the Bat Cave to eat Cheetos and drink pop. He loved it, not because I had come up with some new and fascinating character, but the opposite. This Batman was comfortingly familiar, except he eats Cheetos with middle-aged aunts in the Bat Cave. How intriguing! Little did I know I was creating my own fan fiction.

What is Fan Fiction Writing?

Fan fiction is work written by fans of an already published fictitious work, such as a novel, TV show, or movie. Sometimes referred to as “fanfic”, fan fiction features the same characters as the original work, but adding new settings or plot. Fan fiction can be any length, from a few sentences to a few volumes.

Fan fiction has been popularized in recent years by such bestselling series as Twilight and Harry Potter. Because of their appeal to readers of all ages and their adaption into movies, popular fantasy makes good inspiration for fan fiction. Fan fiction is nothing new, although the internet had made it easier for writers to find an audience. As far back as the nineteenth century, in fact, Sherlock Holmes was popular fodder for fanfic.

Why Fan Fiction is Beneficial for Student Writing

Fan fiction allows students to write about characters they already know. When students are interested in a subject, they are more willing to write about it, making them work to improve their writing skills along the way. Fan fiction can be especially beneficial to students that lack confidence in their writing abilities or seem disinterested in writing.

Fanfic writers do not have to create characters, plot, and setting all on their own. Instead, they can write about characters readers already love, making the task less daunting. The writer can then concentrate on other elements, such as an unexpected plot twist or a spooky new setting.

Students are engaged with writing fanfic because it gives them an opportunity to discuss stories and characters about which they are passionate, often with others who are passionate about the same things.

Fan fiction can be inspired by anything, from manga to movies. This allows almost any student an entry into writing some sort of fan fiction, completely different from that of their peers. It also allows for more diversity in the sorts of things students read and write.

Tips for Assigning Fan Fiction Writing

Because fan fiction is so all-encompassing, students will often writes dozens, sometimes hundreds, of pages. The more students write, the more they will learn, even if most of the writing isn’t of professional quality. Remember, the teacher does not need to assess all the writing. Sometimes simply checking that the student has been writing is enough. Other times, one might assign a peer workshop, wherein students read parts of each other’s works and offer suggestions based on a rubric. Students may also be given the option to submit only one writing assignment for a grade, with more thorough editing than given to other pieces. When teachers do offer feedback, they should stay focused on one or a few key elements, instead of trying to correct every mistake.

Encourage students to share their writing, no matter how imperfect. There are plenty of websites devoted to fan fiction. Because fan fiction is often considered a “geeky” hobby, its writers tend to bond over their love for the genre. This allows writers to offer each other feedback and encouragement that helps them improve their craft.

Conversely, fan fiction sites can also sometimes become forums for cyberbullying, especially given how passionately writers and readers feel about their particular fanfic. Before giving a young person free rein of the fan fiction universe, set boundaries and closely monitor their activities on fanfic web sites.

Fan fiction can be a exceptional starting point for aspiring future novelists. In fact, some famous authors, such as Meg Cabot, Marissa Meyer, E.L. James, Neil Gaiman, and S.E. Hinton, reportedly used to write fan fiction. By being able to practice writing using someone else’s characters and universes, especially ones already familiar and beloved, these writers were able to focus on developing their writings without the pressure of “trying to think of an idea” to get started.

For instance, with Batman as a character, almost anything could happen. After all, who knows what adventures we will have after we finish the Cheetos!


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