With the popularity of the Fifty Shades trilogy and commercial romance publishers wanting to build on the trend, I suspect there are more serial romances available to [commercial romance] readers today than there were in 2008. Fan fiction stories continue to be produced as works-in-progress or works in a series, as they always have. Fan fiction also continues to deal with source-texts that change and complicate the character relationships fans are interested in. However, fans can track these updates much more easily than ever with Archive of Our Own subscriptions or by following specific Tumblr tags. Does this mean that serials are more available to fans as well?

From Fandom Then/Now: Romance & Fan Fiction

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[In 2008] the commercial romance stories I read seemed to focus more on creating a series of linked stories set in one story world. For example, at the time J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series was very popular. In this series, the stories focus on one couple at a time, one book at a time. This ‘series’ more than ‘serial’ approach seems to convey a stronger sense of stability and permanence to the relationship each book focuses on. Even if the characters appear again in a later story, their reappearance often takes the form of an update, rather than an entire revisiting of the relationship. The more serial works of fan fiction I read provided a significant contrast to this approach. Many of these stories returned again and again to the same set of protagonists, constantly building and rebuilding their relationship based on what challenges the source-text might throw at fan authors.

From Fandom Then/Now: Romance & Fan Fiction

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Fandom Then/Now presents research conducted in 2008 and uses to facilitate fan conversations about fan fiction’s past and future. In my last two posts I’ve been talking about some of the different tendencies I’ve noticed between fan fiction and romance novels. Now I want to talk a little more about some of the overlap.

What do you think of my findings? Read the full write up on fan fiction and romance here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

Here are a few core tendencies I noticed as I read:

Two: Character & Relationship Development (continued…)

Commercial and fan romances both play with different types of encounters and different levels of dramatic tension. [While a charged first meeting may be more common in commercial romance,] many works of fan fiction also rewind back to a first meeting and re-develop the protagonists’ relationship from the beginning.In particular, alternative universe stories often require more traditional romance elements to introduce the characters to each other, develop the new story-world, build conflict, etc. There are also many commercial romances where two characters simply meet again after years apart or learn to see each other in a new way. Today, as the serial becomes increasingly popular with romance readers, many popular romance serials return again and again to the same set of characters and story world, similarly building on pre-existing worlds and characters.

Ultimately, these [examples of similarities], coupled with the serial’s rising popularity across media, underscore the links between fan fiction and commercial romance as two modes of writing particularly interested in exploring romance, partnership, and sexual attraction. 

What do you think? Do you notice this overlap between relationship-focused fan fiction and commercial romance too?