Although the Internet has changed the distribution methods, fan fiction remains anonymous, though most of the participants are young women, says Donna Decker, an English professor at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire who studies fan fiction.
Take 22-year-old Michele Tallarita of Whitehall, Pa., for example. She began writing fan fiction in middle school as a way to gain an audience beyond family and friends for the stories she loved to craft.
Her first foray, an original spin on a minor character from the animated movie Spirited Away, flopped. But then she concocted a fight scene between Twilight’s Edward and Jacob and gained instant celebrity. Her short story, or “drabble,” as it’s called in the fan-fic realm, garnered more than 100,000 hits and 1,000 reviews from online readers. She even received a marriage proposal. “It turned into a monster,” she says.
Tallarita credits her online popularity with giving her the confidence to write original fiction. In August, she published her first e-book, Freefly, about a science geek and a girl who can fly. She had hoped her fan-fiction groupies would be willing to shell out $2.99 for a copy, but so far sales have been slow.
“Fan-fiction readers are browsers,” says Tallarita, an MFA student at Temple University. “To get them to reach into their wallets is fairly difficult.”