One writing subgenre that often gets overlooked is fanfiction. Since the 50 Shades of Grey trailer dropped last week, people have been whispering about what fanfiction is and isn't. With that in mind, I set out to find a fanfiction writer who could answer some of my more pressing questions. When I asked my good friend Nan Broome, he was more than happy to oblige me.
How did you get into writing fanfiction?
I actually first started writing when I was around 11 or 12, but that was my own content. Then around 13 or 14, when I first got into internet culture and fandoms, I started writing self-inserts with my favorite characters in the typical fandoms like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. I posted a couple of the PotC stories to fanfiction.net and they received pretty positive reviews, so I kept writing. I don't remember what the actual catalyst was for getting into it as a whole, or even when I created the fanfiction.net account but it's kind of always been a part of my life. I like creating content and telling stories in a lot of different media.
What’s your writing process like? How has it changed?
Well, right now it's usually inspired by a post I've seen or headcanons I develop as a result of day dreaming about the characters. Then I start writing, re-writing, etc. Usually when I finish I want to read it out loud two or three times to make sure the flow and syntax are what I want them to be. I know I wasn't as stringent about the whole thing in my early years. Back then I think I just chunked out what I thought was good in the moment and posted it.
Sounds like your style is pretty organic. What’s your organization like? Do you outline or are you more of a pantser?
I guess more often than not it's the latter. Like I said, I have a general prompt or inspiration and set my stories around that but if it's a longer one, like an Always Sunny multi-chapter story I did a while back, then I'll usually brain storm the direction ahead of time/during the writing process.
What do you like to listen to while you’re writing?
If I'm sitting down for a formal writing session, I'll put on something orchestral. I prefer Mozart because it all tends to run together but I also like soundtracks; the Black Swan soundtrack specifically. More often I just have the TV on in the background because I tend to write in 5-10 minute chunks, take a break, etc.
What are some common misconceptions about fanfiction that you’d like to debunk?
I think the stigma behind it needs to be dealt with. There's this idea of the "horny fangirl" writing smut about her favorite heterosexual characters but gay and in love and for some reason there's such a stink on it. Fanfiction comes in all forms and from all different kinds of people. It's fan-propelled content which can actually enrich the canon of the given media, even if only for the other fans that read it. I think it's really cool for that reason, in the same way that fan art is cool. It's passion and creativity. I mean, it can get weird, but no more so than any other media type.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from writing fanfiction and participating in the community?
Whatever you write, someone's going to read it. I wrote a Pulp Fiction/Les Misérables crossover and it got almost 400 views. Anything is possible.
What’s the best thing about fanfiction? What keeps you coming back?
Part of it is the feedback I get. I always perk up whenever I get a comment saying what I wrote was cute or (especially) in character. The other part is the ability to throw my favorite characters into whatever situation I want. If I want Hannibal Lecter to dance ballet, it's done. If I want dead characters (like Stacker Pentecost) to come back, they're alive. It's an awesome level of control.
What inspires you?
I guess the biggest thing would be the different relationship dynamics of the characters I write for. Certain situations and responses work for some people and not others and I like exploring how they would react. Dialogue is always one of my favorite things to write because of that.
How do you feel about fanfiction becoming more “mainstream” with works like the Fifty Shades Trilogy?
Personally, I don't care that it's mainstream. It's getting writers noticed and I think it should be kind of a compliment to the source material creator(s) that someone was so invested that they wanted to contribute to the canon. As for Fifty Shades, that specific book series is not representative of the community and really only contributes to that negative stigma I mentioned earlier (even if EL James is middle-aged). Not to mention the book series glorifies and romanticizes abusive relationships and violence towards women. I acknowledge its roots as Twilight fanfiction but given that it's an alternative universe (AU) and the names were changed, I don't really see it as fanfiction anymore. It's its own thing.
What tips or advice do you have for anyone interested in writing fanfiction?
You have to start somewhere, and it doesn't have to be posted. Feel free to practice in small doses; work your way up. Whatever you do end up putting out there, make sure it's something you're proud of.
You can read some of Nan's work on Archive of Our Own (NSFW) or follow him on Tumblr.
How do you feel about fanfiction?