It has been stressed enough that reading is a two-way process. It is about building a relationship of trust between the author and the reader, and the reader and the characters. Although the words are the author’s, it is the reader who gives them meaning. A story is an effort for the writer to find a voice, and aren’t voices always meant to be heard?
Readers, clearly, are an indispensable part of the entire process of writing, but is their role simply relegated to that of a listener, a taker? What gives readers a voice? How do they make themselves heard in this ostensibly mutual relationship? Reading wouldn’t be much of a two-way process with one side seemingly voiceless, would it?
Fanfiction is an easy, and increasingly popular, answer. Not only does fanfiction gives a voice to readers, it also brings them closer, and connects them through their love of certain characters. It is not without reason that fanfiction sites have actually caught the attention of the writers themselves. In that sense, fanfiction has also brought them closer to the authors whose stories they believe so staunchly in. Today, the amount of fanfiction generated has been accepted as a parameter to assess a story’s success. Paving the way for a more interactive association of the readers with literature, its characters and the writers, fanfiction is certainly the new internet phenomenon and for good reason.The larger question that arises then is whether fanfiction can be included in the literary realm, the writers’ world so to say? With the active participation of the masses, it has often been dismissed as just fanatic reactions. But fanfiction goes much deeper than that; it is not just a desperate attempt of the readers to take the reins of the story into their own hands, but also to engage more intimately with the characters they grow so inexplicably attached to and would never be able to interact with in real life. It is to give vent to their accumulated thoughts and perceptions through their journey as readers, and seek validation from other readers for them. And most importantly, it is a way to give characters more layers and dimensions, because stories are what the readers make them, aren’t they? After all, characters become the embodiments of their deepest, innate desires and emotions for many. For them, fanfictions become a tool of catharsis, a crucial part of the reading-process. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the fanbase helps expand the readership of the writer, without the writers themselves being a proactive part of the process.
It is easy to overlook things that are deemed as “mass-phenomena”, but what many forget is that where there is such a staggering number of minds involved, there also is a complex interplay of psychological forces in action, which is always worth studying.