Fan Fiction is Good for You

Do you write stories set in the universe of your favorite comic book, movie, or novel? Do you keep your fanfiction life a secret from friends and family? Well, it's time to declare your passion. Why? "Because [you]’re creating paracosms — an activity that, research is showing, builds creative skills that pay off in real life," says Clive Thompson over at Wired.

What is a paracosm, you ask? "Paracosms are the fantasy worlds that many dreamy, imaginative kids like to invent when they’re young. Some of history’s most creative adults had engaged in 'worldplay' as children." What's more people who engage in this kind of activity
are more likely to be creative as adults. In 2002 researchers Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein conducted an elegant study. They polled recipients of MacArthur genius grants — which reward those who’ve been particularly creative in areas as diverse as law, chemistry, and architecture — to see if they’d created paracosms as children. Amazingly, the MacArthur fellows were twice as likely as “normal” nongeniuses to have done so. Some fields were particularly rife with worldplayers: Fully 46 percent of the recipients polled in the social sciences had created paracosms in their youth.

Why would worldplay make you more creative in your career? Probably because, as the Root-Bernsteins point out, it requires practical creativity. Fleshing out a universe demands not just imagination but an attention to detail, consistency, rule sets, and logic. You have to grapple with constraints — just as when you’re problem-solving at work.
The idea of "practical creativity" is exactly why business used to favor liberal arts degrees. If you can create a whole universe, or function in a diegetic from another planet, era, or society, how hard can it be to come up with a policy and procedure manual?

For you STEM majors, how is navigating through a parallel universe like designing a computer program?

In what kind of fanfiction do you engage? If you don't, what world would you like to write through?


  1. When I was younger I had a sort of "paracosm" as child that I shared with my elementary school friends. We created it around the time Avatar The Last Airbender was on t.v. and the Lion, the Witch, and Wardrobe and Bridge to Terabithia was read in school and played in the cinemas. So it had all of these characteristics of each of these other universes and in a sense it was also our unwritten fan fiction play. It was when we were really into this world and the rules that we started to write about it in short stories and school assignments. It then progressed into different stories in different worlds. When I was in middle school we were assigned these spelling packets and one of the activities in them were to write 20 sentences containing at least one of the pre chosen 20 words or 10 sentences with 2 words or 15 with 3 and so on. I completely revolutionized this part of the packet by making it a short story containing all of the words on the list. The grader who checked the packets told me that she always looked forward to my assignments. I recall another assignment after we read 'Of Mice and Men. The prompt was to write an argumentative essay either defending George or condemning him. I wrote in a dialog based format between a lawyer, a judge, and multiple witnesses (other characters in the book). It looked as though it really was the official record from this trial. I really want to engage in more fan fiction that isn't necessarily in the universe of another story but rather use intertextuality to express my fan appreciation in my work.

  2. When i was younger, in middle school, i wrote short stories. i did it for a small period of time and for some reason i just stopped writing them. But, i never stopped using my imagination and creating stories in my head. every day i daydream and come up with little scenarios of things that i would like to happen. I think of things that would make me happy, make the people around me happy, and sometimes i think of things that could make the world a better place. It may not be exactly the same thing as falling in love with a book and creating a story or world based on the book's ideas, but it is very similar. Daydreaming is falling in love with the idea of something and making it real for yourself even if it is only real for those few moments. Fan fiction is a great way for people to be creative and get their ideas out there. It's a great way to subliminally express what is going on in their own world and get their feelings out there. Being creative in any way can be therapeutic and help people relieve stress. Even though i do not write just for fun like i used to i can still understand one of the many reasons why people love doing it so much.

  3. I think that every person, whenever they were kids or right now as adults, experience paracosms. Whenever it is playing in a world like the one they just watch on TV or made up their own, kids are bursting with paracosms. While it is a useful skill to have in your field, there is an additional reason why people are reading or writing fanfiction. It is to experience a world that they are similar with it but with more flavor. Questions like “What if Person A and Person B got together at the end instead of Person A and Person C?” or “What if this story happens in the future?”. Or maybe it’s to give closer to a story that the writers themselves could not give or just gave a bad ending. Questions and suggestions like these are what thrive the fanfiction community.

    If it’s not that apparent, I am part of that fanfiction community. Although I do not write anything in the community, I am an active reader (studies pending). From my experience, many people enjoy these fanfictions because the author gives something that the show could not, wither that be LGBTQ representation, characteristics/scenarios that are not that explored in the media, or an entire new story but with characters/scenario that readers already know about. This type of creative is what I love about being in the community and it’s also one I can participate one day, writers block pending.


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