Young Singaporean fanfiction writers read by thousands
S'porean writers let their imaginations run wild online
Miss Koh Cai Ni, a student, was reading a manga book one day when she did not like the way the story turned out.
So she let her imagination run wild instead.
"I began to imagine the characters in other universes, in alternate realities," she told The New Paper.
"Then I put my ideas into words."
That was the start of her journey into fanfiction.
Fanfiction writers borrow characters and concepts from other works such as books and films and write alternate storylines.
Now 20, Miss Koh has been writing fanfiction for the last six years under a pen name.
She has written 89 stories on online publishing site Archive of Our Own, amassing a total of 48,700 readers.
Most of her stories are based on Korean pop band EXO. Writing fanfiction, Miss Koh says, gives her "power" over the stories she reads as she can rewrite them according to how she would like the storyline to go.
For Miss Koh, who will be entering university later this year, fanfiction is a uniquely communal form of writing, characterised by an unusually close relationship with her readers.
"A large part of my motivation for writing is the community," she said.
"Some of the best friends I've met online were made through our mutual love of reading and writing fanfiction. And the comments that are given by readers are always a big boost in confidence."
Another Singaporean fanfiction writer, who goes by the pen name Merrom, also has thousands of readers of her works.
The 19-year-old, who started writing when she was 12, bases her stories on her favourite books, films and video games such as the game Fire Emblem.
"I had few friends when I was younger and turned to stories to escape," said the student who declined to be named. "The characters became like friends to me... I felt a strong emotional connection to them. These stories are deeply personal. I write them for myself."
Others are starting to pay attention to her writings. Her latest story, based on J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit, has already gained her close to 3,000 readers and counting.
"I don't do it for the money or for the fame. I do it out of love for the characters," she said.
Another Singaporean fanfiction writer, manic_intent, has been doing it for 17 years.
The 32-year-old, who works in advertising, has been read by almost 2.4 million people worldwide. She declined to be named.
"Writing chaptered stories and uploading chapter by chapter leaves lots of room for interaction," she told The New Paper. "Sometimes, what people say in comments ends up in the story."
She has also taken her popularity offline.
She told TNP that she recently sold a manuscript to an independent publisher. She declined to share the title of the book or a summary of its contents, saying only that it is an original work. She attributes her upcoming book to her experience writing fanfiction.
"It takes time to get better at writing," she said. "It helps that I've been doing it in a mostly supportive and interactive environment. Without fanfiction, I'd never have had the practice or confidence even to try."
She added: "Many of my stories stem from some feature of the world I want to talk about, whether it's accountability or politics or gender relations."
One of her stories, Strange Sights, Strange Wonders, was written to discuss Singapore's style of governance. It has been viewed nearly 25,000 times.
"It made my readers think," she said, when asked about the impact of her works. "That's good enough for me."