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Childhood fanfictions help build skills for future writing projects


September 27, 2017

I saw myself as a superhero when I was twelve years old.

Or, the closest to myself that the world would ever permit.

For a few years before then, I had been enraptured by the world of Batman and reread the sparse collection of issues at my public library repeatedly, excited about the prospect of normal people being able to do amazing things. I watched black-haired boy after black-haired boy fill the role of Robin and live out every dorky preteen’s fantasy. And then like a light, we received what I could only assume to be a roughed-up collection of new stories.

Only in that collection, Robin was a girl, and not only that, she was blonde. For those of you who have seen me in person, you can begin to see where this is going. Not just a girl, more than I could ever ask for, a girl who looked close enough to me.

I was obsessed with her and I read the little source I had of her every day for a week, sneaking it into school and reading it during lunch break and homeroom.

And then she died. Because every little girl needs to have that familiarity crushed, obviously.

If you know anything about Batman you know that her name was Stephanie Brown and that she came back almost a year later and went on to become Batgirl. Batgirl was the height of my childhood, the greatest thing to happen in the world. When I couldn’t access the volumes, I would sit on the family computer reading information about what happened. But like her death upon my discovery of her, all good things could not last long. Stephanie Brown was Batgirl from 2009 to 2011, after which she was replaced with the original Batgirl and not brought back into comics until 2014.

Which is where the real story picks up. I was 14 in high school and desperate to continue the legacy. Now, former fanfiction writers in the creative writing major are a dime a dozen, nothing fosters a love of writing quite like composing a novel on Fred and Hermione’s secret love. Like them, I would say that everything that was okay about my writing was probably fostered by constant updates of fanfiction.

Probably the last thing you learn in writing is how to write your own unique characters, and for many young girls around the world, fanfiction is a lesson in consistent characterization and descriptive action.

Writing fanfiction for Batman taught me about creating snappy dialog and research.

Dear god, research.

Harry Potter fans are compared to Batman fans. I had a twelve-page document with facts about characters to refer to with every chapter. Weekly I would check every single blog and news source for any appearance of a character included in my work. Every single week without fail I would rewrite nearly every single chapter to fit the new details released about the characters.

The amount that I learned about revision to avoid the dreaded “Well actually” comment was ridiculous.

But I would never give it up.

In my opinion, there is no better way for young readers to transition into young writers than fanfiction. Fanfiction is a place to try out new ideas and techniques that a teenager or child may be too shy to bring out in an English class. Through fanfiction, writers can learn what characters they enjoy writing and which ones they should go the extra mile for. I learned about relationship build-up, timing and the perfect place to put the ever-shocking reveal.

And probably most importantly, I learned to stick to one project.

My total word count for my fanfictions laid at 61,584.