An Interview with Fanfiction Readers
So I see my teen daughters reading, a lot, on their phones. Turns out the stories that keep them riveted are fan fictions. One is sixteen, and her nom-de-blog is Otaku Princess, and the fourteen-year-old is my Junior Mad Scientist.
Me: So what site are you guys usually reading on?
OP: normally fanfiction.net.
JMS: sometimes on Tumblr.
OP: Tumblr is more of a ‘everything about life’ site.
Me: So why do you like fan fiction?
OP (speaking at the same time as her sister): Because… oh, hi, do you want to talk first?
JMS (seeing me writing): Mama, no!
All laugh (honestly, there was a lot of giggling all through this. We were having a blast)
OP: I read fan fiction because it expands upon an idea you’re already familiar with, it’s also easily portable and you don’t have to buy them. It’s easier to read something on your phone since you have to jump from class to class and I’m already carrying a phone and more books… well,my backpack is already heavy enough.
JMS: Basically the reason I read fan fiction is that I enjoy reading shorter stories, and you can have one-shots in fan fiction. It’s also a little bit because I really enjoy the characters, and you can put two characters together. I can put them together in my head and play out little scenarios, but I like reading when other people do that. You get different styles of writing, different points of view
OP (muttering): Some suck.
JMS (ignoring her): people have different experience. With all that, you can have an entire ‘nother thing. For example Gravity Falls, it’s written mostly by this guy, Alex Hirsch, and I know he has like female coworkers that put in…
OP (speaking indignantly): female? He has multiple different coworkers not just female! Wait, are you talking about writing, drawing, or acting?
JMS: Writing! He’s writing female points of view and they help him. But then you can read a fanfiction written by a girl, about the girl parts, and you can see a different point of view. And you can see a different take. I’m in love with angst. So, like, I love angst and you can get so many stories about angst. And it’s [Gravity Falls] a show for children. Fan fiction can go deep into the angst with the blood and gore and stabbing people, and people dying and…
OP: Gravity Falls is pretty disturbed, fam.
Me: Guys, back to why you like fan fiction. I get that it lets you explore other parts of the story.
OP: No, it lets you explore the what-ifs of the story. So like, if you have characters that are, like One Piece where all the characters are pirates and that’s the world they live in. So you can say what if they were born in the world we live in. It lets you explore the other possibilities that the storyline can’t because it’s chained to its storyline and continuity. There are some great fan fictions, some awful fan fictions, some of them let you explore the gaps in storyline that happen.
JMS: Like Young Justice, where there’s a five-year gap.
OP: We know nothing about what happened in those five years, so we can go on about what might have happened.
JMS: we know a little about some characters, but…
OP: we’re going off on a tangent again.
JMS: Maybe we should go off on the smutty side of fan fiction.
OP: No, we should talk about shipping.
ME: I think we should talk about how you avoid smut, not find it.
JMS: Smut is easy to avoid. On Fanfiction.net there’s way to sort by ratings from k (which is the lowest) through teen (which is the second highest). Teen tends to have swearing or mild violence. Mature has sex, extreme violence, stuff like self-harm that can be triggering. I think you can flag it if you find sex in Teen rated.
OP: Or sexual themes.
OP: On Archive of Our Own (AO3) they have more settings, K-through-Teen, but then there’s Mature, which isn’t always smut, it really depends on what people think is the necessary rating. Some people are more lenient, others are like ‘ah, geeze, man.’ Mature is normally where the dark themes come in. Explicit is almost always smut.
JMS: The thing I like about AO3 is that they have archive warnings and tags on the outside, so I know I don’t want to read that. Not all authors choose to tag it thoroughly, so you have to be careful.
OP: I want to go on about the tags. You can have have specific tags on fanfiction.net, but AO3 lets you tag whatever you want.
JMS: on AO# I’ve run into stories where it’s all tags and no summary.
ME: Can we move on to shipping now?
OP: YES!! I get to go first because I won Roux chambeaux for this one.
JMS (catching my mention of their contest): Mama, NO!
OP (laughing and chanting): shipping, shipping, shipping, shipping…
All laughing. Some squeeing from the younger set.
OP: So first off, not all ships are gay, despite what everyone says. Shipping is great because like, two characters that don’t get together in the show… it bothers me when it takes people out of canon ships. No, just no.
JMS: Incest bothers me.
OP: Incest is gross. Oh god why?
JMS: Even if they are adopted siblings it’s still weird.
ME: So you like the romance in fan fiction?
OP: It depends on the romance. There are some really weird definitions of romance out there.
JMS: I can barely find a well-written yandere.
OP: yandere is basically like Japanese for one person that is in love with this other person, but this other person does not know that they are in love with them. The one that is in love with them will kill, or stalk, or do anything to make sure that person stays theirs. It’s kind of like they will kill them if they can’t have them.
Me: I’m redirecting this a bit. Do you have much interest in reading original fiction?
JMS: There are some people who write original fiction and all they use is the character’s names. They are so OOC that they are not related to the original story.
OP: define OOC.
JMS: Off Original Character. They are still really good.
Me: I actually meant like, books.
OP: Like original original? I am interested in them, but I don’t have time to sit down and read a novel. I don’t know about Freshie over here, but as a Junior I don’t have time to read a novel that isn’t assigned for class.
JMS: You have time when you stay home sick.
OP: I haven’t been to the library recently.
ME: Can I blow your minds and tell you there is such a thing as short original fiction, too? (laughing)
OP: Yeah, but they are hard to find. It’s hard for me to go look it up.
ME: so basically fan fiction is easier to find?
OP: Yeah, it’s all condensed on one website.
OP: Creepypasta is different. It’s all one genre and I’m not a horror person.
JMS: I tend to go on Taptastic, which is all webcomics, but it’s really good.
OP: There is also Wattpad. Wattpad is, technically, you can put any kind of story on it, but it’s hard to deal with. On a phone, you can’t even go from chapter to chapter.
JMS: On fan fiction.net you can download a story on your phone, it has an app. AO3 it has all those tags, so you can see what you are getting into. Wattpad is the hardest to use out of the three of those.
OP: it’s harder to find stories on it, and there are a lot of twelve-year-olds who make mistakes on there. No offense to twelve-year-olds, but it’s not good.
ME: Have you tried reading from the Kindle library? You both have access to mine.
OP: Yeah, I’ve read everything I was interested in on there. Most of those are yours and not up my alley.
JMS: I’m particular about what I read, and I like fan fiction better.
OP: It’s not that I won’t read any books, it’s just that there’s nothing new for me to read. There are continuations of series I’ve been reading and need to finish. There might be novels out there that are perfect for me, but they are hard to find when I can get fan fiction.
JMS: I’m going to go read some fan fiction.
And that’s about it from our house about fan fiction, at least for today. I wanted to get the teen insight into what works for them. I don’t know if it comes across in this, but both of them are raving fans of it, and it’s very difficult for me to get them ‘into’ books I recommend. So they read, and read a lot, but it’s in a style I find very different. As a writer, I feel that I need to explore this – these young readers like my girls are going to dictate what becomes of fiction, in the coming years, and I want to find the rhythm they enjoy to incorporate some into my own work. I’m not inclined to write fan fiction, for one thing I plan to earn money with my work. But it’s important to see that styles change, and how they are doing so.
JMS pops back into the room: I think I found my least favorite type of fan fiction. The kind where the writer forgets how to use the Enter key.