Difference Between Fan Fiction and Web Fiction

I have a friend that read Fiona Gregory's review of The Unbroken Chaos, and she commented by saying, a., that Fiona said that it was good for fan fiction, and b., that web fiction and fan fiction are the exact same thing. Neither of these things are correct. It may seem childish, but I want her to understand that she's wrong on all levels, so would some of you be willing to explain the differences between fan fiction and web fiction? I can almost immediately disregard the review thing just by stating common sense things, but she seems to not be able to comprehend that she might be an inferior writer because she can't come up with her own characters, as she already can't write better than a fifth grade student.

You sound a little ticked off.

The only distinction between fanfiction and original fiction is that the former uses someone else's setting and/or characters.

Fanfiction isn't automatically worse by nature, and there is good fanfiction out there, but fanfiction does tend to be a little worse on average:

* Fanfiction authors are writing because they're enamoured with the characters/setting, not because there's a story inside them that they're burning to tell the world.

* Fanfiction authors write for more self serving ends, creating a larger number of mary sues and other critical flaws with a work.

* Fanfiction has a lower barrier to entry, as there's little to no worldbuilding required, so there's more amateurs.

There's other factors in there, but yeah.

Webfiction is not necessarily fanfiction, but fanfiction can be (and often is) webfiction.

A copyright.

For better or for worse, one thing that a person who writes and posts a story online has to deal with is the perception that what you've put online is by definition worse than what's been traditionally published. People often conflate original web fiction with fanfiction because they're both posted online for free.

As Wildbow wrote, having an original setting and characters is really the only difference between the two. Well, another difference might be that fanfiction is considerably better known, and easier to find.

I'm told there's very good fanfiction out there, but I've barely read any at all, so I don't know that from experience. I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that fanfiction generally showed a lower level of skill than original web fiction, but again, I can't speak from experience.

For myself, the main difference is practical. Fanfiction is ultimately not mine--even if I wrote it. By contrast, I can revise and sell versions of my serial. It's been done successfully. The novel "John Dies at the End," a piece of original online fiction was even taken up by traditional publishers, and I think I've heard something about a movie.

All that said, I can understand why you'd be annoyed, but it's not an unusual reaction to online fiction. The good news is that many people are more open minded about online fiction or become that way over time.

Wildbow is right, although I love Casanders' very concise and exact definition of the difference.

I think, though, that the underlying problem is that your friend equates fan fiction with either self-published fiction or non-profit fiction.

The question is whether this is a persistent prejudice or not. If it is, your best bet is to ignore it.

If you want to engage this person, you may have to first listen and ask questions about what they perceive about fan fiction. It may be that this person doesn't care about the differences. It may be that this person just doesn't know.

Me? I don't mind that non-profit expressive fiction is compared to fan fiction. I have felt for decades that professional publishing could benefit from the pure expressive joy of fan fiction. I say this even though I've never been a reader of fan fiction -- but that's because I'm not that into sf and fantasy. Fan fiction is about the secret fantasy life of READERS -- and pros can learn a lot from that.

Web fiction (and all writing, these days) can spring from that same, fresh, no-rules, I-just-got-a-story-to-tell point of view. And often it does. Ironically, that's also what literary fiction is supposed to do. So, imho, I have to say I'm not really offended to be compared to fan fic, even though it's not my cuppa tea.


All fanfiction posted online is webfiction. But not all webfiction is fanfiction.

Also saying 'soemthing is good for a fanfic' *does* give a different impression and have different context then saying 'something is good for a webfic'. Because while there are some really good fanfiction out there, the bar is pulled down a lot by a huge amount of bad fanfiction. So I think the two sentences do give different impressions of quality. And Fiona's review definitly didn't compare it to fanfiction :-)

;-). I retracted all my negative thoughts on that front.

But on another note, your story sounds pretty awesome from reading Fiona's review. Def going to check it out now :-).

Just responding to NaomiL's comment.

In the order of responses: Now that I'm off of my anger high, I can think clearly, and I do realize that writing fan fic could be a good writing exercise, and I understand why people like it. But I don't, and I hate it when people call my work something that it isn't. Also, she writes fan fic for the same reason an old friend from middle school wrote poorly-executed, cheesy, pointless, not-much-loved short stories: for some sort of excuse to call themselves an author. It's also the reason Fifty Shades of Grey, otherwise known as the worlds most popular word-porn, exists, and I would rather not be mashed together with those people.

And in response to the final line of your comment: The story is extremely weird, and every once in a while (as in every few episodes), I tend to throw some new thing into the mix. The plot has only just begun, and I can say for a fact, if you're looking for something that's all over the place, yet still has an overarching plot, you will probably like my story. Updates on Thursdays! :)

@Jim: "John Dies at the End," is an amazing book. In a nonsequitir, the writer, Jason Pargin, had a major advantage over other webfict writers. He is the senior editor at Cracked. I used to freelance for Cracked, and his story was pimped all over the place there.

I recently became a proponent of fan fiction. In addition to being an accomplished novelist and short story writer, my late girlfriend wrote tons of fanfic and was very involved in the community. Even though it was fanfic, which is "not as good" her stuff was always amazing.

I often compare FanFiction to being a Cover Band. Sure you're up there playing away but it's always with someone else's music. However we shouldn't be too fast to dismiss it because it is still playing and it's still mastering many parts of the craft. Cover bands can make a decent living too, when you think about it.

But it's not the same as writing your own music. The catch is that your own music needs help to get out there to masses. No one hires a band for a wedding or a party and wants to listen a lot of original music. Even in the bar scene a lot of people would rather dance to music they know then a bunch of untested stuff.

The catch: There is a lot of crap out there. People figure that since they can play 4 chords and have a distortion pedal they're ready to the big leagues.

I think everyone already answered the original question, but I'll also chime in that I'm supportive of fan fiction. I mean I have to because back in college I drew a lot of fan art. :P It's easy to tell when a fan fiction writer is earnestly trying to write something "good" and when they're just being pervy daydreamers. I don't really have problems with either, it just sucks when someone tries to take full credit for something that is obviously based on an established property. This is pretty rare, all things considered.

And also, if someone is truly a writer, they will eventually outgrow fan fiction just as I outgrew fan art. It's a way to hone one's skills without the burden of having to start from scratch, and I see nothing wrong with this.

I did a fair bit of fan fiction when I first started writing, it had its moments, but as Amy said above, eventually I just wanted more control. Having said that, I've read amazing fanfic and godawful original fiction, so there's no particular connection. I think it's just a natural inclination to give someone more credit for creating their own universe, and fair enough, if it works, it is a mighty undertaking.

I suppose you could say it's natural to dismiss fanfic writers as "hobby" writers simply because it's harder for them to sell their work unless they can get into the licensed novel field. But whatever makes people happy, really. As far as I'm concerned, "fanfic" isn't a term of abuse, it's a category. Something either is fanfic or it isn't.

I never wrote any fanfiction, but I'll admit that my first fantasy character was a rip off of drizzt do'urden, right down to the scimitars.

I've already got fanfiction of my work, with three or more other people apparently working on other pieces. Don't think it can hurt (I'm being careful to insist that the characters & setting remain my own work) and should help to foster community.

To clarify what I meant by the last sentence of my review (might be what she was referring to?), one advantage of web fiction is it gives readers a chance to experience things that are unlikely to be published traditionally, because they don't follow the same old formulas that publishers think readers want, have an unconventional style, or something like that. Like how professional production and mastering can make a garage band sound slick, but may impose conventions that take away from their raw originality and energy. That may or may not be true of your story, it's just something that occurred to me so I threw it out there.

I wasn't sure if my review would be perceived as positive or negative, so I added that bit about how I liked it, as I did enjoy the story. It has some flaws, it's a little rough, but it's distinctive and very readable. The rating I gave, 3.5 stars, is on the good side of average for a site that includes some really amazing stuff that's certainly on par with good traditionally published books. The disadvantage web authors have, since they are doing it freely for the love of writing, is they usually don't have the services of a professional editor. Nevertheless, some have the chops to self-edit to a high standard.

How your story compares with fanfiction I wouldn't be able to say, as I've hardly ever read any.

By the way, there is no fanfiction on WFG. It's right there in the submission guidelines that it's not in our mandate. So the whole site is examples of webfiction that are not fanfiction. So is Smashworlds, Jukepop, etc.

I don't understand why Alex5927 is so pissed off. It was a positive review.

By how obtuse his friend was being. Not by my review itself. Elsewhere he said he appreciated it.

I completely understand, Fiona, and just being on the "good side of average" is great for me (I'm still in high school and I've read some pretty bad writing from people my age), but, a), she misquoted you so badly it turned it from originality you can't usually find outside of web fiction to copyright infringment. And then she basically said all web fiction is is the people who couldn't get published because they sucked too much. This isn't true. While I realize my writing isn't the best in the world, it most definitely isn't the worst, and she's trying to say it is (which is ironic, because the next day, she asked me to proofread one of her papers and make sure it sounded good).

Also, thanks for the review. It was better than most reviews I've had in the past.

A lot of us have been published. Frankly, much of the start of webfiction came from writers and editors who wanted more freedom -- they often started by creating online professional magazines, and have branched out from there.

The problem is that if someone is determined to stick with a prejudice, there's nothing you can do -- no proof you can offer -- to change their mind. If the prejudice comes from some peer group (such as a critique group or online community) they are invested in the prejudice only because they are invested in the group. And you have to change the group's mind before they'll change theirs. That's just how it is.

I remember a couple of years ago at Duckon, the guests of honor spent most of the con in panel after panel explaining the realities of publishing, and how often they'd had to do an end run around obstruction after obstruction, often doing things like web fiction and serialized rough drafts and self-publishing to keep their books afloat. (And how their enthusiastic fan base kept their career going even when nobody would touch their books.)

There was a woman who was slavishly following them and was their biggest fan, but even after all they said about their troubles with distribution, whenever she got the chance to talk, she'd say loudly and obnoxiously "I've got a friend who thinks _she's_ a writer. Ha! I told her that if I didn't see her books on the best seller pile in Walmart, she was no writer at all!"

She had her prejudices, and she didn't care that everything she knew flew in the face of them. The fact is, I think, all she _really_ wanted was to put her friend in her place. Other people who say things like she does have a different agenda: maybe they need validation on their own choices in life, and so they invalidate everyone else's choices.

You cannot win with those people.



:-). Someone being rude about self-publishing got me interested in it.

But anyways.

I had a 'friend' who would always rubbish my writing once - and they used that 'no better than fanfiction' argument too!

Turns out said friend had writing of their own, which was pretty damned derivative and not all that good.

The Lesson: it's not your writing they're hating on...