I don’t write fanfiction, but I think it’s a great thing. It’s got to make the process of writing easier to start because you already know the characters and their world. Presumably, you’re really into them. Fanfic can be inspired by books, TV, movies, games.
Students as Producers
The really awesome thing about fanfic is that it helps kids to become producers, not only consumers of texts. Christina Olin-Scheller and Patrik Wikstrom use Toffler’s term ‘prosumer’ to highlight the importance of fans’ participation with the text. Katie Behrens emphasises that fanfic needs to be transformative rather than derivative and therefore contain substantial original material. Yet fanfic etiquette requires writers stay within the canon i.e. the world of the text created by the author. In the primary school context this might be less rigidly enforced, particularly for reluctant writers. But, remaining within the canon could enable teachers to gauge students’ comprehension of the text, particularly character traits.
When students are inspired by a text to write fanfic, there is potential for them to become involved in a community of similarly inspired writers, or an affinity space. An authentic fanfic community provides members with the feeling that their writing matters to someone. Group members share and receive feedback on their work. To nourish such a community within a classroom/school the teacher can encourage several groups of students to write fanfic based on texts that are relevant to them. Debra Sprague has created a wonderful forum for primary school students to share and receive feedback on their fanfic. Where the Story Never Ends is a purposefully created site for primary school writers. Alternatively, students could upload their fanfic to school based websites.
Inspired by The Treehouse Books
Survey results suggest my Year 3 students could be inspired to write fanfic by Andy Griffiths’ and Terry Denton’s The Treehouse books. I know most of them have read these books. Some of them were in my Year 2 class last year and I read them The 13-Storey Treehouse and took them to a theatre adaptation of it. The boys especially loved drawing their own treehouse designs; they would create group drawings that required up to 12 pieces of A4 paper taped together. This was a wonderfully collaborative experience for them.
How to start writing after reading any of these books with the class? Students could collaborate to produce group drawings and discuss possible story lines as they draw. The exchange of language and ideas can propel students to write individual or shared fanfic. A fantastic idea from Debra Sprague is to provide students with fanfic mentor texts written by the teacher (or other teachers or older students). Simple innovation on a text, a common classroom writing strategy, can be the beginnings of fanfic. Students could also create cartoon strip fanfic using Comic Creation Apps.
I’ve looked at how The Treehouse books could be a perfect fit for many of my Year 3 students. What texts (books, games, TV shows, movies) can you see inspiring fanfic with students? I’d love to hear your ideas.