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Writing One Direction fan fiction taught me a lot about life

Illustration by TWYLAMAE
Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

Confessions of a recovering Liam Payne stan.

I operate under the influence of a strong and largely unimportant theory: everybody has read fan fiction more recently than they’re willing to admit.

Show me someone who says they haven’t indulged since they were 15, and I’ll show you a liar. And I just won’t stand for this stigma any longer.

My most recent fic relapse was less than twelve months ago. I dug out an old favourite – a 600,000-word Harry Potter epic widely considered the authority on Marauders-era lore – just to see if it holds up. I’m pleased to announce that it does.

Fan fiction is a hobby as old as time, with its popularity commonly attributed to avid Star Trek fans. And since that fated day, passionate obsessives with too much time on their hands have been lovingly (and sometimes not-so-lovingly) playing god with their favourite pieces of media and pop culture.

My personal fan fiction journey started when I was just shy of 14, when a high-school friend linked me to a Glee fan fiction that would eventually make me cry so hard I hyperventilated. Klaine (the couple name given to Kurt and Blaine, obviously) would prove to be both my vice and my gateway, as I soon began experimenting with any fandom I could get my hands on. 

Besides Glee and an on-again-off-again fling with Harry Potter, my major love was One Direction. Between the ages of 14 and 17, I could be counted amongst the most devoted and delirious of Directioners. Demonstrations of my love include standing outside Crown for six hours during the 2012 Logies to hear the band sing through a wall, organising photo shoots with my friends to recreate iconic group pictures, and staying up till 3am most school nights reading possibly millions of words worth of fan fiction.

I can safely say that I was a more discerning reader than most of my friends. I refused to read anything with frequent spelling or grammar slip-ups, inaccurate character portrayals, or protagonists who cried too much. Looking back at the overall quality of work being produced by my teen peers, it’s mildly surprising that I found anything to read at all.

Which might be why I wasn’t satisfied just reading One Direction fics. I had to write them, too.

My magnum opus took almost two years to complete, and clocked in at 58 chapters (plus an epilogue). While I wish I could say I’d written a poignant, heartfelt inter-band romance, I can’t. What I wrote instead was an indulgent self-insert adventure, where I moved to England, met One Direction, and made Liam Payne fall madly in love with me using nothing but my endearingly awkward teen charm. 

Then, naturally, I wrote an unfinished sequel about our children.

I am no longer ashamed to admit this. Nor am I ashamed to admit that, in certain circles, my romantic tragedies were actually marginally popular. I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I included my then-closest friends in the story only to use their fictional fates as leverage to get what I wanted in real life. But that’s just what being a teenager is like.

The truth is, I feel secure in the knowledge that nobody I meet as an adult will ever read what I can now recognise as an atrocity. My masterpiece was destroyed by The Man for violating a site rule forbidding fics written about real-life people. Only about ten chapters still exist, hidden in the depths of my hard drive until I die.

And because I believe doing silly, embarrassing things as a teenager is a beautifully universal experience, the truth of how I spent so many extra-curricular hours is now just a funny story to share with new acquaintances. It’s a way to put my cards on the table before someone with scarily impressive Internet sleuthing skills can beat me to it.

At the end of the day, I think fan fiction is a wonderful thing. I think it’s healthy, and I think it’s fun, and I think teenagers should keep doing it forever.

There were a lot of benefits to my younger self’s obsessive reading. At the time when I started writing fan fiction, I had never been in a relationship. In fact, the only people who had even asked me out were one boy who’d been suspended for flashing girls on skype, and another who brought his own wisdom teeth to school in a jar. So, romance was a foreign but desirable concept.

Unlike my beloved books, the fics I devoured were written largely by people my age or a bit older. Through their fantasies and romantic vignettes, I could safely explore relationships in a way that my lack of experience had never allowed for. I learnt what I found sexy, and what I found cheesy. I learnt how to flirt. I learnt about gay sex.

I also learnt that I was interested in storytelling and writing, and that I loved to pick apart movies and TV shows to find ways that I’d theoretically improve them. Teenagers – and teenage girls in particular – are constantly made fun of for their interests, while simultaneously being force-fed the most half-assed, offensively shallow content possible.

So I will openly admit to my fan fiction past, if only to encourage other young people to engage with the media they’re consuming on a critical, creative level. In turn, we might be able to foster generations capable of questioning what’s given to them, rather than just blindly accepting mediocre drivel they’ll just be mocked for loving anyway.

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