Discussion: Authorial Intent VS Reader’s Interpretation

Discussion-Intent-Interpretation

You guessed right, this post is partially inspired by the immature Teen ‘article’ condemning Teen Wolf fanfiction that made its way across twitter yesterday. It’s also an issue that’s crossed my mind in a few times during my recent reads, especially ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell.

This is a question that we as fans debate again and again, whether it’s about a new or ongoing series, whether it’s books or other forms of media. Once an author has placed their book out there into the world, they cannot control how readers react, nor can they stop their fandom from coming up with head canons, from dreaming up subtexts and themes.

As a reader, I used to feel bad about ‘going against’ the author’s wishes. While I accepted that other fans may have different opinions and will always respect them for it, I viewed the canon as ‘law’. My thoughts on the matter has changed a bit lately.Divider-Ice

Characters & Their Development

This is more obvious with series, where characters grow and change with each book (as they should!) When I was younger, I often rolled with it when characters changed – even if it was not in a direction I particularly liked. For example, Harry of Book Five bugged a lot of people, myself included – but I recognised why JKR took him in that direction.

However, there are two recent examples of character development that have bafffled me. Firstly, Chaol of Throne of Glass – and secondly, Theron of Snow Like Ashes. I won’t elaborate on how they have changed, to spare you all spoilers – but I know I’m amongst the majority when I say that they feel like completely different people. Is it still good development when I can’t see HOW they became who they are? Yet, who would understand a character better than their own creator – who spend years in their head space? As fans, are we right to feel disappointed when the characters we love end up unrecognisable? 

On the flip side of the character development, there’s also different interpretations of characters. I come back to the Harry Potter fandom, as it’s one most of us are familiar with. JKR’s view of Draco Malfoy, or Slytherin as a whole for that matter, is quite different to his fans’s version. I read the amazing FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell recently, and there’s a scene where Cath’s fan tells her she prefers fanfiction’s depiction of Baz over the author’s version. There are numerous villainous characters that have been adopted by fandom over the years, is it right for the readers to feel they have a better understanding of these characters? Or is it just wishful thinking on our part?

In my opinion, fans are obviously entitled to their own version of the characters. Our experiences are all different, and they play a role in shaping our interpretation of a story. I speak as a reader, though. I would love to hear the opinions of writers on what they think about the fandom experience transforming their characters into something more – or different – to what they originally envisioned.

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Shipping, Canon, Fanon, Slash, Crack & All The In-Betweens

Speaking of characters, shipping is almost an extension of that – how you interpret a character would greatly influence who you ship them with. For the majority of my fangirl life, I have been dedicated to the canon ships, I like to avoid heartbreaks – but sometimes, you really just can’t help it!

I’m not just talking about shipping the ‘wrong’ side of the intended love triangle, either. I’m talking about seeing love triangles when there’s nothing there. You only need to venture into fanfiction.net once to realise how varied the tastes in fandom are. Ranging from ships that have some basis in canon (like Inuyasha/Kikyo, or Cloud/Aerith, or Celaena/Dorian) to some that are wildly from the left field (like Cloud/Sephiroth, or Inuyasha/Sesshoumaru, I’ve yet to see a Celaena pairing I’ve deemed impossible). Not to mention that in our passion, we put these characters in some uncompromising situations that would never be possible in canon. This is part of the beauty of fanfiction, to explore what we would never experience.

However, as writers, would authors have any reservations when their favourite characters are written into situations you wouldn’t necessarily endorse? What about when a fanfiction of that nature takes life of its own and becomes published novels (*ahem, Fifty Shades of Gray*). I could understand if authors became upset, yet I still think the fans are within their right to play around with their fictional world and characters. Where do you stand on this?

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Themes

I think one of the most beautiful things about books is all the different symbolism and imageries readers can dream up – some are there completely unintentionally. Surely Shakespeare could not have intended ALL of those themes I wrote about in High School English! This is the same with all the classics, who’s to say Austen or Bronte intended their books to have spawn so many essays or thesis. I’m also quite certain readers see a lot more than what’s on the page, I love written work coming into life on its own through numerous interpretations. What do writers feel when their audience can identify themes they did not intend? I am curious, so please speak up!

I won’t talk too much about fanfiction, but that’s a debate as old as time. We are in an age where there’s LOADS of published, approved fanfiction: whether it be Pride & Prejudice with Zombies, or the latest retelling of Cinderella, to works spun from Shakespeare. Written work will continue to inspire and ignite the imagination, and as long as they do that – fanfiction is quite inevitable, no matter what your views on them may be.


As you can see by my muddled word vomit, I am still pondering this question. Readers: where do you stand in this? Writers: I would love to hear your opinions?

79 thoughts on “Discussion: Authorial Intent VS Reader’s Interpretation

  1. I love this post, Aentee! I especially agree with the themes part. Everyone sees the world differently and that’s the beauty in sharing books and writing literature. And I think it’s awesome that people can be so passionate/invested in something that they can turn something else into something beautiful and interpret it in their own way (really twisted, messed up ones aside, imo).

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    1. Thanks CW! I read an article recently about how even the author’s words shouldn’y be taken as law when we’re talking about themes – as it comes from everyone’s experience – and even the creator’s opinion is just that: an opinion. It’s so interesting, but I guess it’s why classics are so enduring.

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  2. As a reader, I like to just form my own opinion, while I do respect whatever the writer has originally intended (be it about ships, themes or whatever). I can’t help but feel a certain way about what I’ve read though and if it differs from the author’s vision, there is nothing wrong with that. Feelings are feelings.

    However, as a writer, I am kind of possessive of my characters. If something goes completely against what I imagined, then I feel misunderstood and quite frankly frustrating. It doesn’t mean that I will lash out at the person who sees my characters differently than me, but I guess I probably wouldn’t exactly endorse it either. Generally, I try to be open to all sorts of interpretations though.

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    1. I agree we have every right to feel what we do with books, it’s not like we can control it. I understand that writers would feel protective of their characters and would not want to see them in certain situations as well – but I think this is why authors should just not pay attention to any fanfiction. What’s your stance on fanfiction in general?

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      1. Absolutely! If you feel something, you can’t just stop because someone might be offended or feel otherwise.
        I guess authors pay attention to fanfiction because sometimes it’s really flattering. And often also very cute. I like fanfiction myself, but I have to admit that I am not really deep into the matter. I check out some stuff, but not very often. I kind of like how it can become a thing of it’s own though.

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  3. I’m all about imagination and creativity. So if a reader can’t interpret their own meaning behind a character/ship/theme then what’s the point in reading?

    For me I usually just go with the flow of what the author has written and usually stick with it. I have yet to come across a book where a character’s development or an original ship breaks up, bothered me. I trust authors know where they want to take their story and have a good reason for doing so.

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    1. I agree with you here, Jesse, on both points. It’s okay for a reader to interpret as they will. But I also trust the author to lead me on the right path, that’s the promise that is made to me as the reader when I pick up their book, that they will lead me through the story and leave me nuggets of clues as to what I’m supposed to think or interpret, in the end it’s up to me to pick them up.

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      1. It’s a give and take relationship, like everything in life. You may not agree with all the things the author does with their story, but you should trust they are doing it for good reason. 😀

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    2. I’m glad that al of your experiences in books have been largely positive. To be honest, mine has been as well until one series lately, which made me question whether I was justified in feeling disappointed when the character in my head does not the match the character on the page any longer.

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      1. It’s sad that Ice Like Fire didn’t go the way you guys wanted it to. It’s making me put it off for a little while. I don’t want to feel disappointed yet 😛

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  4. It’s funny because even though I’m not that old I feel like I grew up in a different world. Back in my day (hehehe) there weren’t ships and cannons! There was more discussion on symbolism and there’s always did the author mean what they said. I find it all a bit mind blowing but it is very creative.
    As far as writers go, in my limited opinion it seems like it varies. Some writers seem completely ok with what ever direction you want to go with and some seem more reserved. For example, we know that J.K. Rowling doesn’t endorse Draco as some sort of anti hero but what about Snape? I’d be more interested to hear her thoughts on him than Draco.
    I think on character development you’re right, if a character takes a path that there’s no rhyme or reason for it crosses the line of what is believable. You can’t just take your characters and write them into a totally different personality with out cause. It would be like (to borrow from Harry Potter again) Snape coming into the class room and awarding 10 points to Gryffindor. It would be… out of character. I feel like this happens more in TV and a little in multi series movies or reboots where the writing is different. I don’t know if you ever watch Gilmore Girls or not but there is a podcast that talks about the Gilmore and idea of character development when you have multiple writers. Does the creators vision get lost? That applies to fan fic too, though hopefully people stick to actually publishing more original ideas.
    I love your discussion post! They are very insightful.

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    1. I think JKR thinks Snape has some redeeming qualities, but not an antihero like the fans have made him out to be either. Then who knows, she did have Harry name his child after him! I personally don’t think everything Snape did could be excusable.
      I think with TV shows it’s also very easy to tell when a main writer walks off, I have not seen Gilmore Girls but I have seen Supernatural, and noticed a big dip in quality after Season 5.
      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed the post!

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  5. I think for the majority of the time I just trust the author. As much as we sometimes think we know a character, the author clearly knows so much more. They know which direction the series is going in and I trust their change in characters. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always happy with the change :P, but I trust it.

    I love your points about themes. I’ve thought about this, too. I think the reading experience is so incredibly unique. Everyone has different views/experiences/beliefs that I’m sure affects the way that we interrupt a particular aspect of a book. I’ve heard high schools are even reading The Hunger Games for their classes. It must be such an amazing feeling knowing your book is being studied. Possibly a little terrifying, too. 😛

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    1. For most parts, I trust in the author as well – In my situation, I am actually getting worked up even before a series concludes, so it’s a case of counting my chicks too early. I’ve never really shipped against the grain too much either, I usually like the given material – but I love reading some fanfiction of relationships that barely features in the actual source material. I think the fact that people can be inspired so much by other people’s work is amazing.

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  6. I LOVE when there are different interpretations of books that aren’t canon. And “head canons” as well, which I used to write myself 😉 Everyone brings something new to a book and I really love how fan-fiction imagines things so much differently. I agree about Chaol, too 😦 Not SUCH a big fan of this series as I was before, sadly.

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    1. I’m sad that ToG lost so many fans with the recent books as I still adore the series – but it’s not over yet, so there’s room for a big come back!

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  7. I always look for great character development, whether or not the growth is for the better or worse, as long as you can identify the reasons for the change. I think that’s what works best, especially in long series. I still don’t know the transformations that occured with Chaol and Theron but I already feel bad reading that, they were both great characters </3
    Anyway, I also read fanfiction when I was younger, especially when I wanted to prolong the experience I got from a loved story. I don't read all the fics out there, just the ones that seem to promote the ideas that I preferred (whether its a character pairing or an alternate ending). I think we do this not to prove that we can write a story better than the author, but because fans are inspired by what they read and wanted to satisfy some inner craving. There is no doubt that the author knows the story and the characters the best, but I can understand the concept of "borrowing" them for a while in order to fulfill a longing. :p Great discussion post btw 🙂

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    1. I think I am a bit hasty to judge the changes in Chaol and Theron, given that the sseries is not yet over for both of them, so there are still hope!

      I used to read a lot of fanfiction as well, especially when the series did not get to conclude properly e.g. X, or had too much filler e.g. Inuyasha. They fill a hole that I know the author cannot fill, and they always remain very separate in my mind!

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  8. Although I understand why some authors may be upset by fans going entirely against their intention, it is something that cannot be helped. No two people can have the exact same interpretation of a book. Although some fan interpretations can seem very random (I recently stumbled upon a fanfiction for the play ‘A Doll’s House’ which showed romantic relations between Torvald and Krogstad – a pairing that, to me, I could never possibly imagine), I think authors and readers have to repect that alternative interpretations cannot be prevented, nor should they be.
    As for the Teen Wolf debacle, I think no one has any right to shame someone for their fanfiction. If you don’t like it then don’t go out of your way to find it and then attack it.
    Really awesome discussion post! 🙂

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  9. I can only look at this from a readers perspective. As I was reading this post the first thing that popped into my mind was a tweet John Green posted sometime last year stating that “books belong to their readers.” Author’s are no doubt the creators and ultimately it’s their creative choices that decides which direction the characters and the story takes. However, the readers are the ones that in a way bring the book to life; in a sense that their connection to the characters bring about the discussion on their choices and the plot direction. I think that is the beauty of reading. Everyone has their own interpretation and it’s through the reader we get to explore the concepts and directions that could have been.
    I tend to just follow whichever direction the author takes us but I do enjoy the discussion and the different interpretations we get from other readers.
    As always great post, Aentee. 😀

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    1. I don’t usually agree with things John Green says, but that is one wise tweet, I love it! I also like that he’s able to respect his readers. There are some authors that break my heart with the way that they degrade fanfiction e.g. George R R Martin. Fanfiction also plays a huge role in maintaining fandom interest while the next book or season of a show comes out!

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  10. I think fanfiction is acceptable and healthy. How else are readers supposed to express their feelings for their beloved characters and show their want of the betterment of their favorite characters then to take the time to pour their hearts out into fanfiction? Almost all of them understand their wishes are not going to come true and create slash as a form of coping with that but still enjoying the original storyline. That way no matter how to plot develops they can always return to the world where they allow said characters to live out their fantasies. I’m not really for the publishing of the fanfiction unless it is so tweaked beyond beliefe it takes on a completely different world/story of its own. Then- fanfiction is almost like the bare bones or crappy first draft in a story they worked long and hard on.

    As for writers or actors that portray characters who do no like/do not endorse fanfiction or the over hype of certain parts of the story I don’t think they have very much control over it. If I was a author I would be more likely to express interest and joy that someone took the time to write about or fantasize about my characters then condemn them for changing them thus further shunning you and your work from a huge audience/fan base. Either way you know people out there enjoy your characters as the people they are enough to write about them. I remember waaaaaay back when I was in Jr High/High School someone telling me Ann Rice hated fanfiction and would try to track down those that posted it and such. This made me view her in a negative light so much so that I did not bother to finish reading her series.

    Side note- Yes I agree with how wildly Chaol changes as a character and its just so surprising/heartbreaking. I want my Chaolaena ship back. :,( But I can see/understand the direction Maas is taking her for personal growth.

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    1. I really enjoyed reading fanfiction in my high school days – I think they don’t only work for people who have only fanfiction to look to e.g. slash fans – but also for seeing things in situations that you would never do in the book. I also confess to really liking AUs, because I love seeing the characters I like put into new situations.

      Anne Rice is one of those instances where I wish we did not have the internet so that would could readily hear the thoughts of some authors/public figures. Sometimes they make me cringe a little internally. I ONLY WANT TO LOVE YOU.

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  11. Great post! Well, as a reader I think we’re all entitled to love whichever version of a character/book. Doesn’t really matter, I guess? As a writer, I’d just be honored people loved my book or the characters so much as to write their own version of it. XD

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  12. Speaking as a literature student right now!

    “Yet, who would understand a character better than their own creator – who spend years in their head space? As fans, are we right to feel disappointed when the characters we love end up unrecognisable?” Yes, fans have every right to feel that way. Actually, authors “lose” their stories when they publish them. They can no longer say “oh no, this is what I meant, you’re wrong” because the author’s intent doesn’t matter. It might not be what they meant, but if it can be interpreted another way then it doesn’t matter. The reader or viewer interpretation is what matters, because at the end of the day, that’s what on the page or on the screen. If the audience can find evidence to support their analysis on interpretation, then it’s valid and the author can’t tell them they’re wrong unless they got actual facts wrong. If you feel the character development is not believable, then that’s your right. The author might disagree but they can’t claim you’re wrong. If they wrote something that no one interprets the way they intended then the author just has to accept that they made a mistake while writing.

    And as a person who’s been reading and writing fanfiction since I was 14, I completely support the fic community and it makes me so angry when people outside that community mock and shame it. I would be beyond flattered if someone wrote fanfic about my books (if ever I published any) and I would have a lot of fun seeing who people ship. As long as they don’t publish it and earn money on something that’s too similar. Fifty Shades of Grey has TOO many similarities to Twilight, I feel. It could and should have been rewritten a lot more prior to publication.

    “What do writers feel when their audience can identify themes they did not intend?” Most themes come by themselves, it’s not something the author consciously makes up, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. This is another thing that happens when you let your book into the wild, it starts living its own life and you no longer have any control of it.

    Great post!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your insights from this, I think it was way more intelligent than the post itself! I do think that the subtext matters almost as much as the text itself, and I think while not ALL opinions are equally valid (as some are based on more facts than others, especially when a book is concerned) – all opinions have the rights to be stated. I also love what you had to say about themes!
      I love fanfics ever since I was young as well, so it hurts me to see some writers denounce it as laziness – that’s like slapping your biggest fans in the face.

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      1. Yes, that’s why I said it’s important to back up your claims about a book or tv show or movie or whatever with evidence that support your analysis. If you can find evidence then your opinion is definitely valid. I’m especially thinking of a lot of Supernatural fans’ interpretation of Dean as bisexual (myself included). There are a lot of evidence in the show that supports that reading of the character, so when people try to shoot it down as “NOT CANON!!!! UR WRONG AND DELUSIONAL!!!” I just laugh. I don’t care what the intentions are, I judge what they put out there on the screen. That’s what’s fun about fiction 😀

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      2. Also, I might take inspiration from you and make a similar post like the comments I’ve been posting to you here, because this is one of my favorite discussions to have. I’d be sure to link back to this discussion post if I did that!

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  13. Wow I don’t even know what to say! But this topic of discussion is so interesting! I have nothing against fan fiction and also at the same time I am also not a reader of it. But I like the idea of readers interpreting author’d works differently, which is definitely evident in fan fiction. I like the idea of fan fiction bringing to life the ideas of a story that wouldn’t have previously been explored or ships that were once not explored.

    Loved it Aentee! (I would say more but it’s 11:30pm and I’m falling asleep)

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    1. You should definitely try fanfics sometimes Josie, you might be surprised. I think when I was in high school, I read mainly fanfiction of manga XD! It was glorious.

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  14. wow, once again, such an interesting discussion topic. I will warn you before hand that I do have some unpopular opinions about this (sorry!).

    First off, let me start by saying that you’re right, readers have absolute right to interpret the characters as they wish, and that sometimes might lead to some confusion later on. However, I don’t think that their vision of said characters should ever overcome the one that the author has, because as you also said, they know them best, they lived with them for years sometimes.

    I tend to be pretty receptive of all of the author’s choices, I felt that Harry’s anger in book 5 was justifiable, even if it made him a bit of a prick – but I remembered being 14/15 all too well, and I remember getting angry like that for a lot less serious issues. I also am one of the few people who actually thought that Chaol’s behavior was natural, it didn’t shock me at all, I was expecting it and I understood it, and I thought is was NOT out of character.

    Now, about Draco (and to some extent Snape), I like them both a lot by the way. But I never saw anything that redeemable in Draco, sure, the kid was dealt a hard deal, family and all, but he was pretty nasty very early on. He never really wanted to change. The only reason (in my eyes) that he stepped away at the end was because he was a coward (again, in my opinion). So I understand why people want to see more and end up seeing more in him, but I don’t, so I don’t get all the love and fanfictions (and pairing with Hermione and etc), because Draco is not redeemable for me. In the same way, Snape is not a good person, he was a guy obsessed with a girl, but if Lilly didn’t exist, he wouldn’t have done nothing good.

    The shippings for me are a weird thing, I only tend to ship what’s cannon – well, I shipped Rowan and Aelin before, but I thought it was pretty obvious where it was heading from the moment they met – and as you said, Celaena is shippable with everyone.

    I also think that a finished work and an ongoing work can’t be seen in the same way, because with ongoing series we still don’t have all the facts of what molds those characters a certain way, and we make assumptions without all the facts. So really, what I’m saying is that I think the author knows best (even if our imaginations runs wild a bit).

    (this was long and pointless, sorry!)

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m actually quite similar to you in that I almost always take the author’s word as law in the end – since it is their world. I do think that fanfiction plays a role in shedding light on characters or scenarios that would not be explored in the main text – I view it as a possible expansion, rather than something I wholly prefer to the text itself. I never quite got the love for Dramione either, to be quite honest.

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      1. I’ve tried to read some fanfiction. I can almost do it with series that have ended, but I’m mostly able to stick to fluffy/romantic one shots of my favorite OTPs… I don’t really know why, maybe I should try it with a little more enthusiasm, but the first time I tried, the fanfic put one character so out of character that I just couldn’t do it 😦

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  15. First off, can I just say that this is an incredible post! A big thank you to BooksatDawn for referring me to you!

    Like a few of the other commenters, I tend to accept the cannon. When a character’s development turns a certain way, I find myself being more frustrated with the character than the creator. I’m not sure if that comes from writing characters that are meant to be frustrating at times in my own work or what, but I definitely leave my imagination to the creator’s mercy whenever I open a new book. I agree with MyTinyObsession when it comes to on-going series though. We still don’t have all the facts, so it’s hard to really judge whether or not our opinions of said character will change by the end.

    As for fanfic, I can appreciate when readers love a world/character so much that they want to spend more time with them. I don’t personally write fanfic for fear of having my heart broken by cannon. I am not nice to my own characters, so I immediately fear that every author will kill off my favorites (I’m truly terrified of the possibility that Maas might kill off Rowan. We have two books left. It feels too soon to have any kind of happy romantic resolution just yet). But as a writer, I teeter on the fence with fanfic. I want to think that I would find an absurd pairing comedic/enjoyable, but I get silly protective of my characters, so I have the capacity to get rage-y about something that would be created with malicious intent. If that makes any sense…

    Thanks again for starting this discussion! My apologies for the wordy response. 🙂

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    1. Bree!!! OMG, you’re here! 😀 I understand what you’re saying about fanfic, about appreciating the fact that readers can love a world so much that they want to spend more time with them. So much of my first writings back when I was a little girl were fanfics, I didn’t know it at the time, but they were. So I have a soft spot for them in that sense, though I do not read them, and never have.

      As a writer, I don’t know how I’d feel about my characters being taken and manipulated, whether good or bad. I think in many ways it’s a good thing because that means people are enjoying the characters and exploring the world that I’ve created and delving into them deeper. But on the other hand, a part of me would want to say “please don’t Fifty my story”. I think that is my biggest fear with fanfic, not the art of fanfic itself but the evolving of it into something so similar to my own work and it eventually getting published. I do think I would get upset about that, because that type of development would be unoriginal. I mean, why should I have had to cry and suffer over the plot and the characters etc and all this other person had to do was change things, leech the life from the story and then add some raunchy sex to it? IDK, that’s how I feel about Fifty now, I guess. I just feel bad for Meyer because of that whole thing.

      But I know what you mean by being protective of your characters, because like Aentee said, we know them better than anyone, or at least we should having spent so much time in their headspace. I think for me, at the end of the day, I want to portray each one of my characters so vividly that even in fanfic, their interpretations ring true because I’ve done my job well.

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      1. I agree 100% with the Fifty Shades thing, especially since James really made no efforts of truly making it her own in later books. There were multiple times she set up for a good plot only to avoid it to continue mirroring the beats of the original piece. Unfortunately, James made a lot of money out of Twilight fan service IMO. But I don’t think she has taken anything away from what Meyer created/built, in terms of copyright infringement. *My attempt at being unbiased and using legislation as a scape goat*

        And as for writing characters that are so real their personalities are true to cannon in fanfic, YAS!!! Every writers’ dream! Or at least mine… Oh the joys of being a novelist…

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    2. Thanks for your comment and insight, Bree, I loved reading your thoughts on it and can’t thank Jesse enough for referring you here.

      I am someone that don’t write fanfic, but I personally adore reading them, they’re kind of wish fulfilments, I guess – so for me it’s just an unofficial extension of the fiction. I do take the author’s words as the law in the end, I guess – unless they’re one of the ones who hates fanfiction, in which case they just make me a little sad as they don’t want to share their world unreservedly, even though I guess I can kind of see their hesitation.

      I would probably quit the series if Rowan ever dies XD

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  16. I think legally and ethically people are completely in their rights to write fanfiction if they want. Legally, it’s considered a ‘transformative work’; you’re not plagiarizing because you’re not quoting directly from the book; instead, you’re creating something new using existing pieces (like recreating a Van Gogh painting using pastels instead of paint or something). But a lot of authors feel like they “own” their characters, and I disagree with that. I think once an author has published a book, it’s like a parent letting their legal-age child go off to college… it will always be “their” book, but now it also belongs to the rest of the world, who can love and interpret it as they choose. So ethically I think fanfiction is completely okay, because Harry and Draco and whoever else are now part of someone else’s life, and they want to imagine those characters in other scenes. (As long as they don’t make a profit off their fanfiction… then things start to get muddy.)

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    1. I agree with you completely regarding fanfiction. Part of sharing your work with the world is that invariably, you can’t control what the consumers will think OR where their imagination will take them. As long as the writer isn’t illegally earning money of your work, I don’t see a problem.

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  17. I love this discussion! Well, I love ALL your discussions, to be honest. Obviously even if authors DID explain what they meant, readers would still get different things from the book. It’s all about interpretations. I agree about Chaol, though. I don’t remember how he was in previous books, but it was sad to see how he is now. 😦 And the fanfiction… I just don’t like it. I didn’t even know there was a website for that. O_O

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    1. Haha I actually love fanfiction, and there is indeed SEVERAL websites for it 😉 I confess I don’t read much anymore, though – mainly because I am not feeling unsatisfied with any of my ongoing series for now.

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  18. I’m a little conflicted about this one. I’m no expert on fanfiction so I can’t really say much about it. I’m not an author either so I don’t know how I would feel if I were one and people were writing fanfiction about it. I do know that I’m strongly opposed to fanfiction being published. I just feel like it’s wrong because they are capitalizing on another’s work. If say parts of the income they receive through the sales of their books went to the original author, perhaps I would have a better opinion on the matter.

    I agree that authors obviously know their characters better than we do, but at the same time it doesn’t make much sense to me if readers can’t see character growth. From the sounds of it, Chaol’s character just changed without any progression, so I really don’t think I would call that character growth. I will offend fans of the series with my comment, but Maas clearly changed his personality so drastically to make her ship work and that to me is not character development. So I think in a way I do have the right to be completely disappointed in the author.

    The shipping of couples that aren’t couples (nor did the author want them to be a ship) is a little strange to me. Usually because people end up being upset at the author when their “ship” (if you can even call it that) isn’t end game.

    So yeah, as you can see, I’m at both sides when it comes to the topic! 🙂

    As always, fabulous post, Aentee! 🙂

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    1. There are instances where fanfiction have become published, though, and I think the publishing industry just turns a blind eye to it when it’s making them money. See Cassandra Clare or E. L. James.

      I actually agree with you in regards to Chaol. Though the series is far from over, so I guess we’ll have to see where SJM takes it!

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  19. I haven’t seen the article that sparked this post but I love the topic. Every single person reads a book differently because we all have our own perception of the world. A thousand different people could read the same book and you would end up with a thousand different interpretations of what was done write, what needed to be changed, what they connected with, what they would have made the characters do differently ect. I think fanfiction is just the release of all these different interpretations, and that authors should understand that these fanfiction writers aren’t saying ‘the author took the book in the wrong directions’, but instead ‘while reading this book I couldn’t help feeling that THIS would have worked really well’.
    I personally almost always go with canon, but there have been a couple of times I’ve been really thought a book could have gone in a different directions. Talking about ToG, I didn’t have a problem with Aelin ending up with Rowan, but I didn’t see the need to do a 180 of Chaol’s personality. I know Maas did it so that it would make it easier for a lot of us readers to go with the flow when she changes love interest mid series – so that we would view Choal as a dick and think it’s a good idea Aelin isn’t with him but I feel like it was disrespectful to character Maas built Choal to be in books 1-3.
    Great post!! I to would find it interesting to see what writers think of this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t link the article as it was truly garbage and do not deserve any views. It was basically posting excerpts and links to Teen Wolf fanfiction, shaming them. I agree with you, I do end up going with canon, but I do appreciate the different opinions – as long as someone isn’t trying to get me to change mine. Chaol was quite different in book, I hope it’s a phase we will get out of by book 5, I do think that SJM did not know what to do with his character when we got both Aedion and Rowan in the scene.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. This is such a great, great discussion Aentee. I feel like, in school, we’re all taught that there’s only one right way to interpret a piece of literature, and if we don’t interpret it that way we lose points. It’s really hypocritical because nobody knows for sure what an author intends us to interpret or take away from the story. All we can do is guess. But, then again, that’s what makes literature so fascinating. Everyone sees and interprets things differently. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the reasons I didn’t like English class is because I felt I got marked on the Sparks Notes version of the interpretation rather than my own one. I felt that if I could back it up sufficiently, no interpretation is too wild – I mean there are still books written on what Shakespeare and Austen intended – and I’m sure the themes listed are MORE than what they originally imagined. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Zoe!

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  21. I tend to go along with canon ships as well because I like not having my heart broken (though sometimes, it’s hard to know what ships are canon.. ahem Snow Like Ashes). I’ve never DNFed or given a low rating to a book just because I didn’t agree with the direction a book or series has taken, because there’s definitely fanfiction out there that reflects my point of view.

    Which brings me to my next point. I absolutely love fanfiction (Dramione was my life in high school). I like that people are creative with it and go to places that the author didn’t go. But I agree with some of the other comments above that this creative outlet should not overshadow or replace what the author has produced. Most authors I know appreciate the fanfiction that readers have written and I think the majority of them like that readers are interpreting the stories in their own way. But it probably gets annoying when people complain repeatedly and publicly about how ships didn’t work out the way they wanted it to (eg. probably me with Ice Like Fire).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like what you said here, that fanfic is a “creative outlet should not overshadow or replace what the author has produced”. I believe in the art of fanfic, having written it in my earliest writings, but I would never have wanted it to overshadow the author who I was using as a platform.
      I guess I won’t know until I finish my book and get it out there to know what it’s like for readers to talk about ships though, it’s one of my favorite things to complain/flail about. 😀

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  22. Ahhh SUCH a good discussion. Although I have to admit I’m a little black-and-white in my opinion on this one? I truly think books belong to the author. I think they give them to us to read and enjoy but I don’t think that makes them ours at all. *hides* I know lots of people would disagree with that though! And I wonder if I just have this opinion because I’m a writer??? But I am totally for headcannons and ships and fanfic! If that makes a reader happy, that’s GREAT. Because it’s basically showing the author you’re enthused and excited about the world they’ve created, right?! But I don’t think the audience has the right to say “the author did it wrong” 😐 alooooough, I do struggle with this for books like Queen of Shadows. *cries* That book went so wrong for me and I feel like none of the characters are the same. D:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Until reading this discussion, I didn’t realize that books belonging to the author was an unpopular opinion. Goodness, what rock have I been living under! *cringe* I definitely agree with you though, and perhaps that’s because I’m a writer too??? I think fanfics are great, because you’re absolutely right, it is the reader saying, “I LOVE THIS SO MUCH”. But I also don’t think they should overshadow (like Jenna said). I think the whole “the author did it wrong” has two sides to the coin though, not that I agree with it, but from a writers perspective it does make me worry, because it makes me fear whether or not I’ve conveyed something well enough so that the interpretation is what I intended. I know it is impossible to anticipate interpretation, and so the vicious cycle continues, but all the same, I think this fear pushes me to write clearer and more vividly, it asks me to delve deeper into each character to so at least I know that at the end of the day I wrote them to the best of my ability and didn’t cut corners. So for me, the author doesn’t do it wrong, they could have executed it better perhaps, done the same thing but just written it better, but they’re not wrong in my eyes, even if I don’t agree with their direction.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree that it really does come down to the execution of it all, which is truly terrifying as a writer.

        Writing, really any art form, is so subjective to interpretation. And I think it is an important to note that writing is also an ever-evolving skill. The writing of book 4 is always going to be better than book 1. But the unfortunate truth is that book 1 may have been when the author should have set up the character flaws that come to light in book 4 (this is geared toward Chaol in TOG since that seems to be a pretty big point of contention for fans of the series). There are always going to be things a creator can improve upon, but I do think that readers need to allow authors to stay true to the story and characters itself, for example, Tris in Divergent.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Fantastic post, and although I don’t necessarily have a lot to add, I do want to say – thank you for writing this!

    Obviously we know readers are going to form their own interpretations – but if authors want us to reach a certain conclusion, then they have to lead us there. Which is why the character development of Theron and Chaol is such an issue for me – it didn’t follow the previous logical progression, and there was no indication as to why and how the changes occurred. So there’s canon, and then there’s what readers feel is a more appropriate interpretation. Gah.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Theron nearly broke my heart, I could barely recognise him in ILF, he had none of the qualities I loved. There’s canon… and then there’s just poor writing, and I feel it was the case of the latter as the author needed to up the stake in the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Not really sure where I stand on this. I an’t stand when readers insist on seeing love triangles that just aren’t there. I also don’t mind growth, even if it’s not in a direction where I like it to go. But I despise when authors completely change a character just to serve a purpose in the story or to change ships…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, while I think people are entitled to ship whatever the heck they like, I don’t like it when people try to convince me something is there when it’s not – as I’m entitled to MY OWN pinion as well!

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  25. This is an amazing post. I am so guilty of reading Inuyasha on fanfiction.net but the Inuyasha/Sess paring grossed me out..because I mean they are brothers that hate each other. So yeah.

    Totally agree that Chaol is a different character, I was really unhappy with his switch in personality..you have me worried about reading Ice Like Fire now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to hear your thoughts on Ice like Fire. Omg I love ALL the Inuyasha/Kagome fanfic. My favourites were by Rozefire.

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  26. I found this fascinating and it’s really made me think this week – I don’t write or read fan-fiction but I see nothing wrong with it at all. As a kid & teen I made up stories in my head about characters from books, TV & movies (usually involving myself in some way, ha!), I just never wrote them down. And back then, there was no interweb to share them easily with other fans (yup, showing my age)!
    I thought the @teen article was a nasty little piece of lazy trash that was deliberately negative & had a bad impact on some kids who are statistically pretty vulnerable. I hope the fanfic writers took heart from the strong support of them on Twitter, etc.
    As a writer, I wouldn’t care what fans made up about my characters – I think it’s a form of flattery that shows just how much your writing has inspired people. I’d only be upset if they used them in some sort of hurtful way (eg: being racist or sexist), or if it was far better writing than my original 😉
    And themes – I LOVE people’s interpretations of writing! It can be so varied, so imaginative – which is the point of writing in so many ways 🙂 If writers can get people thinking, writing, reading more, exploring, learning, and talking to others about it, then they’ve done a major service right there! And if fans/readers can point out hidden themes, the writer can learn back from them 🙂
    Great post, thank you so much!

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  27. This post is AMAZING. First, eff that article. I want to say worse things, but I don’t want to make your blog family unfriendly at the moment 😉 I think that once it’s out in the world, it absolutely can be interpreted in any variety of ways! It’s an opinion, which kind of can’t be wrong. Funny you should mention Shakespeare, because that was ALWAYS my argument in school. Like, did someone call him up and ask him what he was trying to say? No? Great, then you have NO IDEA, random guy who wrote a textbook. Infuriating.

    As for fanfic, I think it is fine too. Why not? It gives readers and outlet, and bolsters creativity. That sounds like a win-win to me.

    For me, if I feel like I sense a “theme” in a book, I try to indicate that I THINK it is a theme, and not that the author wrote it as such, because who knows WHAT the author had in mind. BUT we are also all free to come up with our own thoughts on it too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your sentiment on the article! Thanks Shannon!! I think authors should just accept that when their books are in the world it’s very difficult to control how people will think or interpret it!

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  28. As a person who was never a part of a fandom and who don’t read fan fiction, I feel a little out of place in this discussion. I think that no matter what fans do, they should do it with respect for the author. If not for him/her there wouldn’t be a book. You raised very interesting questions here and I’m very curious to hear the opinions of writers on this matter.

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  29. Pingback: Page By Paige
  30. LOVE this post! It’s something I’ve been struggling with lately, with the recent onslaught of JKRs tweets about the HP universe, about little things that I personally don’t agree with, which detract from how I first viewed the series, and how I continue to view it today. I like to maintain that once an author has published their work, whilst the authorial intent matters to some extent, it really shouldn’t detract readers from interpreting it in their own ways and going with it 🙂
    Great post!!

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