The first fandom I was a part of was Harry Potter. There had been other TV shows, books and movies before that I was also a big fan of (Xena, for one) but it wasn’t until HP that I experienced the full fandom experience: looking at fanart online, discussing with other fans, reading up on trivia, memorizing the most peculiar details about the books. For a while, I kept a long list of all the character names from HP in a notebook. I still don’t know why.
When I was in my mid-teens, it seemed that HP fanfiction was everywhere. I never really got into reading it, other than the odd piece, but I did browse a lot of fanart. I also never wrote any fanfiction (of HP or anything else). What I did do was HP fan roleplaying. No, I don’t mean that sort of roleplaying, I mean the sort where you hang in a chatroom or on a message board and you write about what a character (sometimes an established character from the canon but usually an original character) is doing and interact with other peoples’ characters. For years, roleplaying was my favorite, and most time-consuming hobby. For a few years I spent at least a couple of hours almost daily roleplaying, and I made some good friends through it. I started out doing general fantasy RPing in chatrooms, and then moved on to a HP message boards where I hung out for years until it eventually got run over by newbies who all insisted on playing characters of the “Dumbledore’s granddaughter/Voldemort’s niece” variety. Then I started my own forum, where me and a couple of friends did HP and X-men RPing as well as fantasy RPing in worlds we made up together. HP was the first world I added to that forum, and most of my characters were born in that world and then got “copied” into other worlds. Eventually, particularly as I got more serious about my writing, RPing just ended up being too time-consuming so I stopped. It’s still a fond memory though, and I think that those years spent writing for fun every day did me good as a writer, too. In fact, quite a few of my characters from my RPing days have moved with me, slightly altered perhaps, into my own fictional worlds and may eventually turn up in books!
To return to the point I was making: I never wrote fanfiction. I think the main reason why I took to roleplaying in established universes but not to writing fanfiction was this: when you roleplay with original characters you’re playing in another writer’s world but the characters are still yours. You follow someone else’s rules but you decide for yourself what you do within those rules. With fanfiction, you’re not just in another writer’s world but you’re using their characters. And as much as I would’ve loved making Hermione’s career blossom, or exploring Neville as Headmaster of Hogwarts or, dream of dreams, visit McGonagall in her youth it never felt right to me. After all, how could I know how someone else’s character would act in a situation never addressed in the established universe? And if I didn’t manage to get them to act the way they were “supposed to” then I might as well make my own characters, right?
Well, I did. And I still do. And considering how many of my stories are about love, and babies, and sex, and unusual couples and all that…. sometimes I feel like I’m really just writing fanfiction based on my own fictional universes.