[Contains spoilers for Supernatural by CW]
This is how it would go usually:
Fingers impatiently tap on the counter and he is suddenly jolted from his stream of thought. “Are you done dreaming yet?” the customer demands. He rolls his eyes reaching out to prepare the coffee, not reacting to the fond smile that takes over the customer’s face. It’s a weird ritual of banter that they have between them and he wouldn’t give it up for the world. He wonders if one day, he’ll get to learn more about his customer than a single T written on the side of the cup.
He immediately startles and swears. His superhero alarm is ringing. But, he could not leave right now! His identity would be exposed! And that too in front of his favorite customer? No! But, he had a decision to make…
Or how it would go if I was writing a 25k, strangers to lovers, superhero secret identities, hurt/comfort, fluff, coffee shop au. We’ve all been there one way or another. Our favourite show takes a long, long time to come back on air or the romantic subtext between two characters is never addressed and the only way to let it all out is through fiction.
And that’s where fanfiction comes in.
Fanfiction is a form of derivative writing created by fans of a particular media such as books, tv series and/or movies. They borrow characters from their beloved series, putting them in different scenarios (Alternate Universes or “AU”s) and tropes (anything ranging from emotions such as “hurt/comfort” to “mistaken identities”). The fans write anywhere from one-shots (one chapter, flash fiction-esque writing) to multi-chapter, multi-series work rival to any published book series, all for free.
In mainstream conversation, fanfiction is usually regarded as being not equal to “other” forms of writing due to the lack of originality that comes from borrowing characters of a pre-established media. Even creators of the series themselves provide ambivalent reactions towards the existence of fanfiction about their characters. Some find it flattering and appreciate the work put in by people to create these elaborate texts while others are more protective of their characters and storylines.
Regardless of the opinion that one forms about fanfiction, it would be wrong to disregard fanfiction simply as creation of obsessed teenagers. Fanfiction as a term originated from the Star Trek fandom through the fanzines back in the 70s. The concept, however, has existed for a long time. Fanfiction defenders point out that classics such as Dante’s Divine Comedy, contains elements of a modern day self-insert (or as known in popular culture, “Y/N” or OC) fanfiction and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, could be termed as biblical fanfiction.
Therefore, even though the concept is not new by any means, the interpretation of the characters and the stories in fanfiction has become a way of expressing diverse identities of the fans themselves irrespective of the paths of the original story. This presents in two different ways: the death of the author argument and the representation that fanfiction provides.
“Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes and subsequently, New Criticism presents the idea that a work of fiction does not ultimately belong to the creator after the “birth” of the work. After a work becomes public, it becomes removed from the author and the intent that the person might have behind creating it. Fanfiction writers often follow this same idea to re-interpret the original piece however they want, exploring storylines that may have ended early in the show, minor characters who do not appear much in the story or romantic couples that are not “canonized” (explicitly confirmed in the main story) which sadly happens a lot in the case of LGBTQ+ couples.
This is where the easy access to fanfiction sharing websites helps to overcome barriers of traditional media and helps to create representation. Though mainstream representation of POC, LGBTQ+ and women is still undergoing changes year by year, and much has improved as compared to the last decade. Fanfiction offers direct access to members of these communities to write characters in their own vision. Many fans feel their experiences being reflected in their beloved characters and stories offering them a medium to reflect upon. This exposes fans of the same content to diverse experiences outside of the immediate world around them.
These two ideas culminate into the fanon (fan-canon) ending of Dean Winchester and Castiel of Supernatural TV series. Supernatural was a horror TV-show which premiered in 2005 with the premise of two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester travelling around the country “hunting” supernatural beings to protect humanity. Around the end of season three, Dean was sent to hell in place of his brother and that is where the fan-favorite character, Castiel (or “Cas” as nicknamed by Dean and the fans) enters. Castiel, an angel of the lord, rescues Dean from Hell because “God commanded it”. And that is where the romantic “slash” relationship between Dean and Castiel emerges at the end of season four episode one “Lazarus Rising.”
The ship (shortened term for “relationship”) Destiel (the blended names of Dean Winchester and Castiel) steadily gained fans in the Supernatural fandom for the next twelve years, pointing out various moments of possible romantic interaction between the pair and storylines that pointed towards a deeper romantic subtext. The storyline for the pair ultimately culminated into a romantic confession by Castiel confessing his love for Dean (while the other remained speechless taking in the sudden confession) and ultimately, dying almost immediately to save Dean’s life. The show, which ended two episodes later, did not address the confession and only hinted towards Castiel being alive somewhere and an enigmatic smile from Dean at the mention of Castiel’s presence. Irrespective of whether one believes that Destiel is real, the Destiel fandom’s reaction was to celebrate the good and create their own story.
Although Castiel's confession (in the episode aptly titled “Despair”, episode 18 of season 15) was a wonderful surprise for the fans of the ship, the subsequent deaths (of both Dean and Castiel) and no mention of the confession caused disappointment. Castiel’s death particularly felt like a re-iteration of the “Bury Your Gays” trope that many a LGBTQ+ characters have been subjected to in media. And the lack of conversation about the confession in the show, cheapened the moment for many by coming across as token representation. A similar disappointment came as the exclusion of a deaf hunter named “Eileen Leahy” in the finale episode despite her increasing involvement towards the end of the show. Supernatural has had a trend of introducing wonderful characters who could provide meaningful representation, only to have to be reduced to helping the main characters and not fleshing themselves out more.
Stories like Supernatural which run for a long time (15 seasons in this case) occupy a special space in the heart of the fans because many have grown up with the series or the stories and characters resonated with them or even helped to cope during distressing times. An ending, such the one given to Castiel, only disappoints those who had been waiting for the story arc to end with a happy ending or have been invested in the characters for a long time. This is where fanfiction comes in.
In this case, the disappointment was soon turned into outpouring support and call for better representation through hashtags such as #TheySilencedYou and fundraisers such as The Castiel Project for The Trevor Project and The Eileen Leahy fundraiser. Many fans channeled their energy into creating fan works to celebrate the tear-filled confession by writing alternate endings to the story or adding onto it. An outpouring of fanfiction challenged the ending given by the show and chose to re-invent and re-write it. This added onto the previous championing of Charlie Bradbury (a cannon lesbian character who was later killed off in a brutal fashion on screen) and the brief hinted relationship between Claire Novak and Kaia Neeves (two other hunters) in fanfiction. Many POC and women characters were written extensively in Supernatural fanfiction, exploring avenues and deeper character studies by many POC, LGBTQ+ and women writers.
Dean’s repetitive assertion of his masculinity on the show as well as the gender fluidity of angels and the demons in the show through the various vessels possessed throughout the show carves out a space for fans who have struggled with their own gender and helps to create a trans-natural narrative about their favorite characters.
The fandom was bolstered especially by the reciprocation by Dean in the Spanish dub (famously called the “yo a ti, Cas” dub) of the show which aired in Latin America, two weeks after the initial English episode. This spawned many jokes (“I love you, Dean.” “Why don’t you ask me again in Spanish?”) But, this also led to multiple Latin American Supernatural fan creators to write re-imaginations of Dean Winchester, Castiel and other characters by drawing on their own experiences. The tag #latinenatural provides a space for these writers to present their beloved characters as POC with Latino heritage and upbringing. Similar tags such as #desinatural for mainly Indian fans (but generally also South East Asian fans) to imagine their favorites celebrating festivals like Baisakhi and Holi. This creates inclusivity for fans to see themselves represented for a show that has very few POC characters especially those given importance in the main storyline.
Women have similarly struggled in the main storyline into not being either killed, shifted into romantic interests or mothers for the main two characters or even daughterly roles. However in fanfiction, a lot has been written about Charlie Bradbury, who dies in Season 10, (although is later resurrected in season 12 as a alternate version of herself), Jo Harvelle and her mother, Ellen Harvelle who die in Season 5 to save the “boys”, Eileen Leahy who disappears mid season in Season 15 and is never mentioned again (as mentioned before) among others. Trends like #spnwomenweek, #spnpocweek and #transnaturalweek encourage writers as well as other creators to celebrate the representation within the show as well as create their own through stories to express themselves and bring inclusivity.
The efforts to re-write the ending culminated into planning a fandom-wide marriage for the both to take place on 14th February, 2021. Writers, artists and creators simultaneously celebrated by writing fiction about what marriage could look like. It was a joyous day for those who had to watch 12 years of pining between the both characters and provided an ending for those disappointed by the one provided.
Fanfiction is sometimes also regarded as “ruining the integrity” of the original media that it borrows from and which just as any medium of expression, has its own problems, but more so with the people that write it. But in the same breath, it would be reductive to classify all of fanfiction as such. Fanfiction provides an avenue for people of different communities to see themselves in the stories that they enjoy, express and explore their sexualities and gender identities through their favorite characters, to have a space to create meaningful representation in which traditional media still lags behind and ultimately, write an ending to a story that has resonated with you despite whatever becomes of it at the end.
is a high school creative writer having started writing in 6th grade. She has written multiple short stories, poetry and dabbled in hybrid as well as non-fiction. She has previously been published in a short story anthology - "21 for 21" as well as in Octopus Ink by KHSPVA. She has been mentored in poetry and fiction through Ellipsis Writing.