‘Canon vs. Fanon’ – Why it’s Important to avoid Favoritism in any type of Fiction

For those of you who absolutely adore reading books whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, Japanese manga, you name it, or watch movies and television on a regular basis you will understand the moral behind this post. Everyone has a favorite character, fictional or not, and will stand up for that character and his/her beliefs as much as they would stand up to a bully stealing the underdog’s lunch money. This post isn’t all about favorite characters, but has to deal with a certain aspect about what makes that character so great or oh-so terrible.

Conversely, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner so this post is quite suitable to discuss. Today I’m going to be talking about character relationships, also known as “pairings” or “shippings” among those of you, like me, who sneak into the fan fiction side of the writing world from time to time. What is a shipping, you ask? I can get technical about the definition, but to keep it simple I’ll just blurt out a few words to make you understand its importance.

shipping (n.): Two fictional characters paired together, whether they are the work’s original pairing or not.

shipping (n.): Something that will drive you bananas if the relationship between the two characters does not work out.

Basically the second definition is not true on terms of literacy, but if you have a favorite pairing in any type of art, you understand what I’m trying to say. Shippings are found all over the place, especially on Tumblr. Simply type in two characters’ names and BAM you’ll get all kinds of fan fictions and fan art based on their “canon” or “fanon” relationship.

Over the years of delving into the fictional universe of relationships, and being considered the Shipping Dreamboat by some of my friends and readers, I’ve come across these terms and could not help but to study their meaning in further detail.

The word canon goes back hundreds of years ago and simply means that if it is written by the original author and notified by the public than it is true. Canon in pop culture when referred to shippings means if the author of the original source made it known that the two characters are, in fact, a couple than it is true.

Fanon, on the other hand, is completely different. It is defined essentially by fans as the insane relationships created by two characters who don’t have any love interest at all, but can be proven as a couple by certain unethical facts found in fan fiction, fan art or somewhere in Tumblr’s search bar. Trust me, I have a few “fanon” pairings myself. After many years of reading novels my mind is bombarded with pairings that you could hardly believe would ever exist.

A few years ago in a videography/animation class of mine, we were each given a project to study different cultures of media and entertainment. The topic I was given was Japanese Arts & Manga, which are comics created in Japan adhering to a style developed in the late 19th century. During my research, I came across a pairing that was so overly adored and dramatized by fans that it made me sick to my stomach. Other pairings, such as the minor characters, were hardly ever embraced or respected. The same goes for all of the novels I’ve read where the main couple is rhapsodized by every known fan, while the others are shunned upon. This is when I realized how many shippings could be created by the simple strike of interest.

The reason canon vs. fanon is important for writers to delve into is because when you are writing a romance novel or even a middle grade book that includes a potential relationship between two characters, it’s easy to forget the audience you are writing for when you are bewitched by your own favorite pairings. It’s called favoritism, and trust me it gets boring after the first page. If you spend so much time coddling to one relationship there will be no excitement for your readers. This also goes for your main character. Spend more time on heightening the back stories and facts about minor characters  instead of donning your main hero/heroine with the favoritism cap. Never forget about your audience. They are what truly brings out the life of your characters.


Today’s prompt: Share your opinions about shippings whether it’s canon or fanon. You can even tell me what your favorite shipping is and I’ll see if I’m familiar with it.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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About Katya Szewczuk

Katya is the Freelance Writer, Editor and Journalist for New Jersey based publishers Renna Media. She is also a videographer who creates book trailers for authors and is the host of the Youtube series 'The Kat's Meow'. She is currently working on two middle grade novels both featuring a spunky, adventurous heroine who goes off on a journey.
This entry was posted in advice, anime, books, canon, fanfiction, fanon, manga, valentine's day, writing, writingprompt and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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