Fanfiction for Dummies

Amber Lee Carnahan, Managing/Health & Tech Editor

pen-and-paperWebsite provides entertainment, creative outlet for writers

By Managing Editor: Amber Lee Carnahan

Fanfiction is known by few and understood by fewer. Those who have heard of it associate the genre with gruesome images, harsh ideas, and unintelligent writing. This is, however, a common misconception. While some submitted stories may be mediocre, Fanfiction is a tool all writers, experienced or not, could be comfortable using. In order to help you better understanding Fanfiction, a short guide has been crafted to lead you through this strange new world.

Fanfiction is a type of writing that influences originality, yet gives writers a place from which to start. As its title suggests, this genre is fiction written by fans. The stories found in Fanfiction can range from tales written about classic novels like The Great Gatsby to movies like Avengers. Fanfiction can be found on, a free website available to anyone with an internet connection. As its catch phrase states, Fanfiction is the perfect way to ‘unleash your imagination.’ There are three main ways to spend one’s time on the site, which include reading, writing, and Beta editing.

Becoming the Ultimate Reader

For non-writers, there is the option to simply read stories written by others. Fanfiction is separated into nine different categories, which helps in narrowing down what to read based on one’s personal interests. The nine categories are Anime, Books, Movies, Cartoons, Plays/Musicals, Comics, Television Shows, Games, and Miscellaneous. Inside each respective category are specific related subcategories that contain a range of fanfiction. For example, if one was to click on the Books category, they would then be shown a long list of books, the currently most popular book being Harry Potter. After clicking on the Harry Potter subcategory, the reader would then be shown several fanfictions that were written under that category.

There are also filters that can be used to narrow down what type of stories will be displayed. The genre filter allows the reader to choose two different genres, which will then refresh the screen and only display stories with those specific genres. There is also the character filter, which allows you to choose up to four characters from that category and will then, likewise, only show stories that contain those characters. In the case of Harry Potter, I could select only the Adventure and Drama genres. I then could specify that I only want to read a story centered around Harry, Ron, and Hermione. In addition to those filters, there are also ‘without’ filters, which allow you to specify genres you don’t want to be listed. For example, if you’re not sure what story you want to read, but know that you definitely don’t want any romantic smut littering your computer screen, and then you could choose Romance as one of the genres in the Without Filter.

Another option available to readers who find filters to be painful and mind-boggling is a source called Communities, which are mini-archives grouped under certain specifications. Communities offer popular types of stories and character combinations to help guide you towards your next great read. There can be multiple communities for different categories. For Harry Potter, there are approximately 7,800 communities. It is common knowledge among veteran ‘Fanfictors’ that there are many stories that lack conviction and are just a waste of space, which is where communities would come in handy. Usually there is a community that offers well-rounded stories, strong plot-lines, and originality. One such community in the Harry Potter subcategory is named “Excellent Harry Potter Fanfiction,” and as the name suggests, is filled with well-executed stories that make for worth-while reads.

Becoming the Ultimate Writer

Being a Fanfiction Reader is only one aspect of the site. The best part in my opinion is being able to write your own fanfiction. Many have felt that pang of sorrow in their heart after finishing a particularly great movie or a favorite book and wishing the story would continue. With fanfiction, that dream can be brought to life. To write fanfiction, an account must first be made. This is the step where the writer chooses their penname, which is the title under which their prized work will be displayed. To submit fanfiction, the writer can login to the website, where there will then be a list of tools available. The ‘Publish’ tab is where one can submit their stories, after titling their work and categorizing it.

Besides the gratification of being able to continue a loved storyline, there is also the beauty of reviews. Once a story is published, it is available for anyone to read. Once read, the writer may find that a review may have been given as a reward for good work. Reviews are a good way for writers to share constructive criticism with each other, or to simply give praise where praise is needed. Like everything, there can be a dark side to reviews. ‘Flames’ are offensive reviews that don’t offer any constructive criticism. They are just meant to be rude and insulting. Fortunately, the majority of reviewers are mature enough to leave constructive reviews. As a writer, you’ll also be able to view Traffic Stats through your account page. Traffic Stats allows you to see how many people are viewing your stories, as well as the different countries your stories reach. The more you write, the greater viewers you’re likely to reach.

Becoming the Ultimate Beta Reader

If writing isn’t your strong suit, then there is always the option of being a Beta Reader. The role of the Beta Reader is to provide guidance and feedback on fanfiction stories that are in the process of being written. However, it is required that a Beta Reader must first be a registered member of the site for at least one month and must have already published either five stories or entries totally 6,000 words. After the requirements are met, you can be on your merry way to becoming a Beta Reader.

First, your Beta Profile and Preferences have to be completed, and then it is a waiting game. There is a section on the site for Beta Readers, and that is where the writers will go to find someone to edit their story. The way they select one is based off of the preferences chosen by the Beta Reader. Keeping the example of Harry Potter, if a Beta Reader selects Harry Potter as one of their editing preferences, then someone writing a Harry Potter fanfiction would be able to select that Beta Reader. To start editing for someone, a connection must be made. This is a symbol for trust between the Beta Reader and the writer. To add a connection, go to the DocX tab and select “Connections.” You will then need to search for the User’s ID or penname.

Fanfiction isn’t as scary as it seems. Obviously, the site isn’t for anyone. If you don’t like to read, as it seems a common condition with most teenagers these days, then you most likely will not enjoy engaging the world of Fanfiction. However, if you do like reading and wanted to give writing a go, then it would be in your best interest to jump in and give it a shot. Most of us don’t bite, I promise.