Imagine yourself thrust into the wonderous universe of Harry Potter, where mystical creatures and mythical items abound. Trickery and spells combine with stories of morality and friendship and truth and justice—simple, universal, beautiful stories. But certain aspects of the Harry Potter universe remain unexplained in the books, though they easily could have been.
For example, Ron Weasley holds the title of being the whiniest about homework. Fans of the series accept his character as lazy or unmotivated, never getting his homework done because he was more focused on chess. Since JK Rowling never really writes about why Ron is “lazy” or “unmotivated,” most readers just leave it at that. It’s a joke, he’s a kid, he’ll get over it. But what if Ron Weasley couldn’t do homework well because he was dyslexic? Or dysgraphic? Or faced some other learning challenge?
Coming out of a literary tradition known as adaptation, where authors borrow a character or a place or a premise to make the story richer, fanfiction provides us the opportunity to make the stories we love our own. In the case of Ron Weasley, exploring his character as dyslexic gives us a different understanding of his motivations and makes him more relatable to others who struggle in school. After all, if JK Rowling isn’t dyslexic, can she really write about the challenges? And, more importantly, should she?
Fanfiction is a chance for your voice to be heard. Learning to use your voice will serve you well in the future, but it will also help you gain confidence in the here and now. Whether you use your fanfiction to delve more deeply into Ron Weasley’s or Cedric Diggory’s or Hermione Granger’s or some completely different series’ character’s inner life and challenges (or to create entirely new characters!), you can bring depth and sympathy to characters in a way the original author did not.
In Writing What You Know: The Magic of Fanfiction, young authors will discover the rewarding feeling of representation. By adding a bit of themselves to their favorite stories, fanfiction authors strengthen their sense of self-worth and value in this world. Much like using a spell against a boggart—a boggart faced not only by you, but by others with similar challenges—fanfiction authors dispel the boggart and experience the power of success.
Give fanfiction a try. You never know what magic worlds you might unlock within the universes you already love.
John McDonald earned his Bachelors degree from Portland State University, where he majored in theater and took a variety of writing courses- where he learned about adaptations, mask work, and non-prescriptive editing. John writes narrative fiction with a focus on less represented characters and most of his writing has a fairy tale aspect to it. John believes literary art relies on community engagement and inspiration from other artists in order to grow a person’s craft (and yes, that inspiration can include even surprising things- like the ride queues at Disneyland).