It’s hard to even know where to start. I can tell you with all sincerity that I would not be sitting here as a professional writer without fanfiction. To say that it merely influenced my life would be a drastic understatement. I could say that fanfiction helped me realize an identity that was already waiting for me, the role of wordsmith.
I didn’t have much going for me when I first started writing. I was homeschooled after being bullied out of my last school. I was lonely, a bit awkward, and like most writers, a little weird. My family’s financial situation wasn’t the greatest, and as a result, I spent a lot of time alone. There were plenty of other activities for me to be involved in, and I kept myself busy, but none of them really captivated me. It wasn’t until I very fortunately caught a stomach virus that I first learned how fanfiction would change my life.
As I lay on the couch in a big burrito of quilts and self-pity, my dad slid a copy of The Hobbit into my hands and smiled. I had no idea what the book was about, and as I opened the cover, I never thought to myself that this simple introduction would set the course for the rest of my life. The moment I read the opening line, something clicked, and I became unstoppable.
I read every fantasy novel I could get my hands on. I devoured all of The Lord of the Rings books, inhaled The Golden Compass series by Phillip Pullman, decimated The Chronicles of Narnia and a hundred other fantasy novels until I’d read whole shelves of fiction at our local library. But in the midst of the chaos that was my childhood, I realized more than ever that reading other people’s stories was all well and good, but writing my own must be ten times better.
And so I began my first fanfiction. It was a simple character insertion fanfiction where a character who I swore was not me (it was) had mysteriously been sent to Middle Earth to assist Frodo (my favorite character) on his quest. I filled whole notebooks writing Lord of the Rings with my character Krysta Briggs tagging along through my favorite parts of the novel. Writing it gave me peace, gave me a sense of fulfillment, and a feeling of purpose that had never been so strong in my life before. I realized every word on the page ignited my desire to write even more than the day before. I had found my passion—and it is a rare thing to know what you want to do with your life at eleven years old—and by the time I’d finished my first fanfiction, I was sure writing was what I was made to do.
That first fanfiction was the first of many. I have written Harry Potter alternate history fanfictions, Supernatural spin-off fanfiction, and even one based on the novel and musical Wicked—each experience more rewarding than the last. Once I’d gotten hooked on writing, my desire to write pushed me to study English in college and start my first non-fanfiction novel. I remember a lot of naysayers laughed in my face when I said I was studying English. Didn’t I know I would never get a job because I loved WRITING of all things? I say with pride that I walked out of college into a job and was working in advertising as a professional writer a short two years later.
So has fanfiction changed my life? Absolutely, no doubt. It fashioned me into the person I was meant to be. It fed my desire to write and allowed me to translate my love for the stories of my favorite authors into something tangible and incredibly special. It taught me that love is, first and foremost, the reason why writers write, and that fanfiction writers are overflowing with it. They are a singular type of writer that puts an enormous amount of time and effort into their writing purely because they love these stories so much. They feel compelled to express that love by adding their own unique chapters to those stories.
Without fanfiction, I can say with absolute certainty that my life would have been completely different. Not only did my interest in it sparked my desire to write, it provided me with the passion to pursue it as a college degree and now writing as a professional career. But beyond that, it ignited a fire deep in my core.
This fire gave me the power to express myself, evoke emotions in others, and the courage to embrace my favorite stories—to tell them (and my own) in my own way.