Take a moment to think back to your middle school days.
If yours were anything like mine, they definitely included cringe-worthy outfits, a One Direction obsession and, worst of all, fanfiction that went along with it.
Whether you wrote it, read it in secret or made fun of those who did, it was probably a massive part of your tween, young adult culture.
Personally, it was and still is a massive part of my life. I’m exposing myself, but I am indeed a fanfiction author.
Like Wattpad, the site holds millions of fictional spinoff stories of properties like Harry Potter, Marvel, "Attack on Titan" and others that were about celebrities like Justin Bieber and One Direction.
It is a common misconception that many writers are in their early teens, which is partially true, but for every one of those there are just as many adults sharing their takes.
I’m a rather rare case, at least as far as I know. Much like my peers, I discovered fanfiction when I was around 12 years old and joined the writing community soon after to write about the likes of Harry Potter, "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," among others.
However, it was much less of a phase for me than most others. Fast forward 10 years and here I am, still an avid writer and reader.
I’ll be the first to admit we’re an interesting community to say the least, but each piece of fanfiction is incredibly different from any other. For one, people who haven’t truly delved into the world very much view the concept of fanfiction as inherently sexual.
This is completely untrue.
When I first started out, all I wanted to do was write my own versions of characters’ lives, not make characters who weren’t meant to be smutty, smutty. This is usually what many fanfiction authors aspire to do with their chosen art form.
Take "Fifty Shades of Grey" for example. It’s a well-known fact that the raunchy franchise was based off of a rather colorful "Twilight" fanfiction. It’s not exactly a good example of non-raunchy fanfiction; it’s the reason why so many people associate this sector of people with those traits.
I take to Rainbow Rowell’s view of fanfiction a lot more kindly.
In her novel, "Fangirl," the main character goes off to college and continues her popular "Simon Snow" fanfic saga. She actually garners enough popularity that followers of her stories have designed merch in her honor.
I read "Fangirl" two years ago, well into my college career, and felt completely understood by the author. Over the years I’ve secured over 1 million readers, and despite not updating as often, it's stuck with me.
In all the time I've written fanfiction, people have asked me why I do it, or why I choose to associate myself with all the weirdos. Simple answer — they aren't weirdos. I've never understood why feeling a sense of belonging is considered weird.
In the high school hallway, other people had their friends — I had characters. So I wrote about them and built a following through that.
Fanfiction is a place readers can go after finishing a series where their favorite characters are still fresh, and writers can get extra support during tough times.
Initially, I began writing "Harry Potter" fanfiction after years of missing new content. But being a part of fanfic.net, I learned I was never alone. Shortly after publishing my first story on the site, I garnered a few faithful followers whose comments I remember to this day.
There is one reader, in particular, from Venezuela who has yet to give up on my work. Even when my page goes quiet for months and my well of ideas is running dry, she still has words of love and affirmation to send my way.
As hard as everyone’s teenage years were, it was always comforting to know someone was waiting on me for an update that would make their day better in the same way it did mine. And yes, like everyone else with a platform, I have dealt with negative comments, but those hardly seem to matter anymore.
What does matter is the fire that lights when I'm writing my stories. The characters may not be my own and the plots may be extensions of preexisting ones, but to an extent, they will still always be mine.
Fanfiction is not something I will outgrow or look back at one day and laugh. It is my home.
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