The first story I wrote was Star Trek fan fiction. It ran about two-thirds of a page long and was about the Enterprise blasting the heck out of a Klingon ship. I proudly handed it to my third-grade teacher for review. She neither mentioned it nor returned it. I apologize to my biographers for not being more diligent on their behalf when I was 8 years old.
The second one was a Batman story of several pages, written in the fifth grade. It was, if I may say so, actually pretty clever. I had a cameo appearance by the Joker but created a new villain for the plot: Dartman. I think he shot poisoned darts at people; it’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but given the evildoer’s name it seems plausible. I’m sure a copy is among my papers somewhere.
The advantage of getting started by writing fan fiction is that you’ve got a ready-made world to work in. You know the characters and how they act. You are familiar with the setting. The only challenge is plotting – giving these familiar people something new to do. It can be excellent practice.
Some people go on from there to create their own characters, their own worlds. Others, though, do not. A look at just one site – FanFiction.net – will quickly show you how popular fan fiction is (the number of Hogan’s Heroes stories alone surprised me).
Some authors don’t mind having other people playing in the worlds they’ve created. They see no harm in it and have no desire to slap down the devotees. Other authors practically go on quests to hunt down these thieves and place their heads on pikes outside the castle as a warning.
For myself, I can (must, really, to avoid hypocrisy) appreciate fan fiction as a starting point. I don’t see any real harm in it, and it’s cheap entertainment. But eventually, I think, a writer should work without that safety net and fully exercise his creativity. Have your say below.