The Benefits of RPG and Fanfiction

Sunday 6 April 2014 by

Despite several well-known authors singing the praises of fanfiction, there’s a lot of scorn out there in the world for it.

I can’t really understand this, because, for me, fanfiction was what gave me the confidence to pursue a creative writing degree, to start writing my own stories set in my own worlds.

And RPG forums gave me the confidence to start fanfiction.

RPG Forums

Essentially Dungeons and Dragons without the dice, RPG forums involve writing short scenes about your character, leaving an open thread for someone else to jump in and interact with you. You can’t predict what the other person might say, so you have to be creative and flexible with following the plot as it develops.

Only ever writing short little segments makes it feel safe and easy, but you’re actually starting to get an understanding of character and plot, as well as experimenting with cause and consequence. It’s a great way to start grappling with the bigger issues of story writing without having to worry about ‘finishing a book’ or getting it wrong. Things in RPG change so rapidly, it quickly stops mattering if you make a mistake, or something doesn’t make perfect sense.

I stopped participating in RPG forums when I got frustrated with the speed of other people participating, and with the decisions they made that didn’t suit my ‘vision’ of the plot. I was then ready to take the next step.


Fanfiction gave me the freedom to take my experimentation with character and plot to the next level, within the security of someone else’s world and vision. It meant I could write without having to worry about world building and secondary characters – all that stuff was already there.

Fanfiction’s other benefit was the large number of people waiting to give you ‘feedback.’ Okay, a lot of it was about as useful as a chocolate teapot (“OMG ure amazeballs”) but you didn’t have to go far for an ego boost, and having even two or three people hanging on your every word was great impetus to keep writing.

I completed my first full project through fanfiction. It was probably close to novel length. It was utter rubbish, but the improvement from the start to the end was clear. And all that learning was applied to the next thing I wrote.

Eventually, I got bored of operating within someone else’s parameters and wanted to create my own worlds. That was when I took the leap to writing my own things.

Learning to Write

Everyone will tell you that learning to write involves writing. Lots. It can be hard to find a place to start, especially if, like me, you find it hard to think in short stories.

RPG and Fanfiction gave me the start I needed, and so I would never disparage anyone who does it. It’s like riding a bike with stabilisers, learning to drive in a dual control car – you’re making all the motions, but with a degree of security that allows you to experiment and make mistakes.

And though I’m not about to tell you what websites I frequented and what my username was (in the same way as I wouldn’t show you some of my first novel attempts) I’m not ashamed that I got my start in fanfiction. And neither should anyone else be.

Did you or do you write fanfiction?

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