Want to write a story about a favorite character but not sure how to start? Got a favorite character and want to give them a new adventure?
Missing your favorite worlds and want to explore them? Then fanfiction writing is for you.
In this article, we’ll explore what fanfiction is and the common elements found within it. We’ll also offer some fanfiction ideas, starters, and prompts to inspire your favorite character’s next adventure.
What is fanfiction?
Fanfiction stories incorporate existing characters from literature, movies, or tv shows. They don’t require character development or world-building to write a story from scratch.
In fanfiction, these existing characters find new life in a fanfiction writer’s story. As a writer, you can take these characters and put them in new situations, relationships, and conflicts to make an entertaining story.
Fanfiction writing is incredibly free – there are no hard and fast rules when crafting great fanfiction stories. You can take your favorite characters from multiple stories and put them in the same world.
Perhaps friends in the original story become rivals in your fanfiction, lovers become enemies or vice versa, or members of one fictional universe enter another and must adapt.
Writing fanfiction is incredibly fun because writers and readers are already familiar with the characters. What makes it even more fun is that fanfiction allows for further exploration of characters, their different sides and traits, and potential alternatives for how they live their life.
This offers fans of a particular story or series some satisfaction, especially if the book or series is finished and the original writer no longer expands the story.
“Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”Lev Grossman
What are the main elements of fanfiction?
What themes and tropes do fanfic writers use to make an exciting story? What themes allow for new and interesting ideas?
Elements of fanfiction
Fanfiction writers often use time travel to make room for more story ideas.
For example, a character taken out of his own timeline and dropped into the past or future allows the writer to explore elements of that character’s personality against a different timeline, social structures and traditions, and cultural differences.
Another popular tool fanfiction writers like to use is the alternate universe.
An alternate universe is a world where events from the original story didn’t happen. As such, a writer can explore different lifestyles, life events, and even personalities in existing characters that let them develop separately from their development as it was played out in the original story.
Alternate relationships are a fun way to write fanfiction.
The relationships characters have in their original stories often define that character, their development, and their decision-making. In many cases, a relationship is a character’s downfall or success.
As a fanfiction writer, you can change a character’s relationships. You can join two characters from the story who weren’t together before or create a relationship with characters from different stories.
Why do people write fanfiction in the first place? Often, readers have become so interested in a character that they want more of them even after the book, series, or show has finished.
The love of a character and an interest in their life and its potential is a popular reason why fanfiction writers create stories.
Many stories about a character from an original story follow that character’s personal life beyond the events of their source story.
Fan-fiction stories (ideas and prompts)
Time travel fanfiction
A character from history time travels to the present day. How do they react to the future? Why do they time travel?
A villain time travels to change a superhero’s origin story. How does that affect the villain in the present, and how does it affect the superhero?
Characters from a modern story are transported through time and space to a world of the past.
Try Medieval France, Ancient Egypt, or Rome at the height of the empire. Use other examples and stories from these places and periods in which to immerse your modern characters.
Minor character fanfiction
A minor character gets their chance to shine when significant characters from a story are stuck or incapacitated.
Think of your favorite character from a book, movie, or show who didn’t get the time and attention you felt like they deserved. The original plot of a story is turned upside down when a minor character reveals a huge secret.
What happens when a minor character gets chosen to join a team of cross-universe heroes to complete a mission?
Write a story about a minor character you wish had more screen or page time in the original story. Give them an exciting background, something that nobody would expect from reading about or seeing them in the original story.
Two characters (friends, lovers, and family members) from one world meet two characters who share the same dynamic from another world. Do they get along? Do the four team up and become a group, or do they dislike each other?
Write a story about a high school where all students are existing characters. They don’t have to be teenagers already – you can reduce the age of adult characters or increase the age of children to make the story work.
An alien species has arrived on Earth. They carry deadly diseases in test tubes that threaten to wipe out the entirety of humanity in a matter of years. Choose a team of heroes, wizards, or adventurers to take on the alien invaders and save humanity. Who do you choose, and why? Does your team work together well, or do they disagree and fight?
Write a story in which a fictional relationship doesn’t happen. Perhaps a minor turn of events sent one character in a different direction, preventing them from meeting their known lover and leading them into a different timeline in which they end up with another person. Write this story from the perspectives of both original characters, or write separate stories for each.
Two characters from different universes meet and fall in love.
Two long-term enemies get into an accident during a fight, and both lose consciousness. On waking up, neither can remember the fight. They can’t even remember who they are or the powers they have. Not knowing they’re enemies, these two spend time together and fall in love. How does it play out? Do they remember their true selves? What happens to the relationship if or when they do remember?
Two characters from their own stories (the same universe or alternate universes) have children together. Write about their family life and the lives of the children. Are they also superheroes, wizards, witches, etc.?
Daily life fanfiction
After the main events of an original story, life goes on.
Write a spin-off story about one or several of your favorite characters making their way in the world in the short or long-term aftermath of the plot of the story from which they come.
A superhero in their day-to-day disguise gets kidnapped. Knowing their own power, they play along. Write a story about how the superhero, bored with the day-to-day tasks and not working much as a superhero lately, plays with the kidnapper’s mind.
A villain realizes the error of their ways and wants to make amends. Write a story about how they turn their life around, help others, and even go so far as to become a social activist.
A superhero gets in a fight with a villain and loses their memory. Write a story about how that character lives their day-to-day life with forgotten powers. Do their powers come out accidentally? Do they ever remember? If they do remember, what causes the memory to return?
New superheroes must face a panel of interviewers. The interviewers work for Marvel and must decide who to allow into their universe.
A wizard casts a spell that backfires. The only way to reverse the spell is to find another wizard and seek guidance. Write a story in which wizards from two different stories meet and work together.
A superhero starts a hero training school.
Write about a character’s life as if they were the opposite gender.
Write an alternate origin story for a superhero or villain of your choice.
Fanfiction writing offers an excellent opportunity to write your own story but using characters from your favorite stories.
A simple story idea is all you need to start because much of the character fleshing and world-building has already been done. Your favorite writers are brilliant people, and you can stand on their shoulders to create a new and exciting story for the characters of their creation.
As Lev Grossman explains, ‘the culture talks to [fanfiction writers], and they talk back to the culture in its own language.’ Fanfiction is a way for story lovers to continue their relationship with worlds and characters while offering that space for other fans worldwide.