Help me get into Fanfiction, Specifically for Harry Potter
May 20, 2021 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Hi AskMe, I'm about a dozen years too late for this, I guess, but I've recently discovered a liking for Harry Potter fanfiction, and I'm wondering how I can begin to explore it beyond finding stories recommended in random places, or just Googling…

I have begun figuring out what I like and don't care for in terms of plot and so forth, but I feel like fanfic is so extensive it's hard to get a handle on. It seems to be posted in centralized archives which have questionable search features, and it's hard to tell what's missing because nobody has written it yet vs. what I'm just having trouble finding.

I'd love any insight from people hereabouts on where to begin. I know thus far that I've a soft spot for lighter, romantic stories featuring the interaction between muggles and the wizarding world, though they seem to kind of be thin on the ground. I do know that there are fanfics on seemingly every subject imaginable but don't know how to begin sorting through them all. I belong to an HP fan fiction subreddit, but I'm sure there are other places I'm totally unfamiliar with.
posted by Alensin to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're looking for the Archive Of Our Own, HP Fandom.
posted by tiamat at 8:52 PM on May 20, 2021 [9 favorites]

Archive of our own is the way to go. Tagging for specific relationships, parings and topics is super common and you can also outright exclude stuff you do not want to see. Even better!

I find that finding a fic in some sort of collection is really useful for me to find a bunch of fics that someone else curated.

Note, at the beginning of the HP fandom, was WAY more popular than it is now, and you can find some gems on there. But the search system is lacking, and the ads annoying, and lots of the content warning culture that's built up around fanfiction wasn't as much of a thing. I suggest defaulting to Ao3 unless there is something recommended to you that you cannot find anywhere else.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:09 PM on May 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

To add because I forgot: On you can sort by reviews/likes (iirc) and on Ao3 by kudos/comments, which helps bring some stuff that lots of other people realy liked to the top. The commenting/reviewing/favoriting culture between the two sites is slightly different, but sheer numbers usually don't steer me wrong.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:13 PM on May 20, 2021

Sorry to keep replying multiple times at ao3 but The fluff tag will get you light pieces in general. If your looking for a specific muggle use their name, of you are looking for a non specific or original character use the oc tag.

Here is a link of all works tagged fluff with a general rating sorted by kudos on Ao3.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:23 PM on May 20, 2021

Here are 114 Harry Potter stories I've bookmarked - they are all very good, but uh. I have eclectic tastes. I would ignore the crossovers in there unless you have a familiarity with that fandom as well.

Last night I re-read Hermione Granger's Hogwarts Crammer for Delinquents on the Run because it is an absolute banger of a story and goes into the Muggle/magic interactions hard and delightfully.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:24 PM on May 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

The only HP fanfic I ever got into was Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, in which Harry has a much better childhood upbringing, becomes a Ravenclaw, and thus has much more potential for evil somehow. (Also actually addresses having a teacher bullying students, AHEM.)

Disclaimers: super freaking long, and the guy who wrote it might be dubious but I can't recall why.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also if you find an author you like on ao3 you can look at their bookmarks to see what they like.
posted by oneear at 10:57 PM on May 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

In general, looking at the Ao3 pages of authors and commenters you like may let you discover the bookmarks of people who liked stuff you've read enough to bookmark it (or write it) and who may also have bookmarked works up your alley that you haven't yet seen. More specifically:

the guy who wrote it might be dubious but I can't recall why.

The guy who wrote it, Eliezer Yudkowsky, founded LessWrong, and as I recall one of the explicit stated purposes of that fanwork - sometimes called HPMOR - is attracting more people to his particular flavor of rationalist ideology, especially young people and women. By that particular flavor, I mean, "please give loads of money to Yudkowsky and his friends to prevent the AI Rapture."

I would not categorize his work as light or romantic, though it is concerned with interactions between the wizarding and muggle worlds, to me it seemed written to manipulate fannish individuals into agreeing with the author, while maintaining a deep disdain for fanfic and fandom.

OP, I am afraid that my three strongest HP recs each satisfy about one of your criteria really effectively.

...lighter, romantic stories featuring the interaction between muggles and the wizarding world...

copperbadge's Stealing Harryverse is probably the warmest, softest, lightest Harry Potter fic I've really liked, though the romance is very much backgrounded and there's not a lot of muggle/wizarding stuff.

...lighter, romantic stories featuring the interaction between muggles and the wizarding world...

gyzym's What We Pretend We Can't See is very much a romance, and I think a very sweet one, but your mileage might vary. You will probably get a sense from the front matter/Author's Notes at the beginning of the text whether this is your sort of thing or not.

...lighter, romantic stories featuring the interaction between muggles and the wizarding world...

Dolores_Crane's In Loco Parentis has got sex and relationships in it, but it is far more of a coming of age story than a romance, and it is intently focused on being a story about the UK in the late Nineties, including controversial topics of the period (and the present). This one is considerably more obscure than the first two, but I am personally quite fond of it.
posted by All Might Be Well at 11:01 PM on May 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I’ve been reading tons of Harry Potter fan fiction in the past year and wholeheartedly agree that Archive of Our Own has one of the best search/sort/filter capabilities. Personally, I read mostly romance themed fics, so I like to start by searching by the pairing I’m interested in (e.g. Hermione Granger/Draco Malfoy). Then, I’ll filter further by language, exclude crossovers, and show only completed works. If you’re just starting to read fics, it’s better to make sure it’s complete, so you’re not accidentally disappointed by an incomplete abandoned story. Finally, I sort by “kudos”; this is Ao3’s system for “likes”. This way, I can find the most popular fics easily and then just read the summary to see if I’m interested in reading. Once you stumble on a story you love, go back and read more of that author’s work and check their bookmarks. You’ll start to find the tropes you like and then be able to click on those tags to find more. One example of something I’ll review the tag for is BAMF!Hermione. And then again filter for complete works and sort by kudos.

Other places to get fic recs:
1. You’ve already mentioned the HPfanfic subreddit. There’s a subreddit for Dramione, Harmony, and others.
2. Facebook groups for romantic pairings. I’m currently in a Dramione group and a Tomione group. (Don’t judge til you try it!)
3. TikTok
4. I have some specific fic recs in my Instagram stories highlights. Message me if you want the link.
posted by watch out for turtles at 11:43 PM on May 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: All you need is one good fic to start and you expand from there.

Use one of the recs already linked in this thread, or: From the Harry Potter page on AO3, you can use the right side filtering menu to sort by kudos, bookmarks, or views. The works that show up at the top will tend to be at least better than average.

Once you find a fic that you LOVE, click on that author's name and read everything else they've written. Then click on their bookmark tab and read everything they've bookmarked. Then keep clicking on the authors you like and doing the same with them.

Also, once you find a fic you like, look at the top menu for the list of "collections." There are readers who will curate lists of bookmarks and recs. Their collections will be titled things like "best of the best" or "my favorite fics." Click on some of those. Hopefully you can find some bookmarkers that have similar taste to you, and you'll enjoy the other things they've bookmarked.

Your reading list will explode. Get an ao3 account and use the "mark for later" button to save things you want to read later.
posted by Nickel at 11:49 PM on May 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Welcome to one of the most extensive fandoms that exists! There is so much writing, much of it very good, and oh my goodness you are going to have literal years of good reading ahead of you.

Everyone's covered how to use tags and bookmarks to filter the signal from the noise, so I will make two specific recs for the type of story you mentioned liking. They're both light and romantic, long, chaptered AU stories that put the protagonists with one foot in the wizarding world and one foot in the Muggle world:

Hermione Granger's Hogwarts Crammer for Delinquents on the Run by waspabi (also recommended upthread by dorothyisunderwood) and The Dogfather by hollimichele.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 12:10 AM on May 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

This really takes me back -- I was super into HP fanfiction in the past. I agree that AO3 is the best place to go. A lot of old fandom-specific archives have died and been absorbed into AO3.

My general advice is not to get discouraged by a low initial signal:noise ratio -- the search space is vast and most of it is bad, but you will become better at using the searching and filtering tools over time and then your results are likely to improve.

Kudos is an imperfect measure because it doesn't correct for age, but it's better than nothing.

Back in the day I would discover new fic by word of mouth via writers that I already liked, and that's still possible now, although there's always the being-nice-to-friends factor gumming up the human recommendation algorithm (i.e. writers who are friends are likely to boost each other's work even if it's objectively not very good or they wouldn't seek it out otherwise).
posted by confluency at 2:30 AM on May 21, 2021

Wow this post takes me back! I am not entirely confident of any recommendations I could provide just because my world view wasn't fully formed at the time I was reading HP fanfiction so I thought a lot of stuff was fine which I definitely wouldn't think was fine now. I found HP fanfiction through Livejournal back when (I think it was called) the Sugarquill website was still a thing.

I really doubt a lot of the fics I enjoyed at the time would have aged well, but I'll give one of them a shot.

I remember really enjoying one-shot Flame and Shadow (Ron/Pansy... Yeah I know, super random which was why I liked it) and chaptered fic Underwater Light (Harry/Draco) by the HP fanfic author Maya (Mistful) wayyyy back in the day (I think she made the switch to published novelist later...?) and her fics are all shared on this Reddit thread here including the two recced above. She mostly wrote Harry/Draco. I liked that they were relatively light and fluffy, as most H/D used to be extremely mopey and dark. Please do not judge me if you start reading them and hate them... I last read them like 10 years ago.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:49 AM on May 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the Shoebox Project, set in the Marauder era and featuring the Marauders.
posted by jaruwaan at 1:00 PM on May 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another AO3 recommendation here. Their tagging system and search options have completely changed how I approach a new fandom.

For a big new fandom, my process is usually something like this:

I go to the fandom or pairing tag that I'm interested in. In the search sidebar, I exclude everything that I know will ruin the story for me. I exclude incomplete works.

Then I sort by "kudos." Since this is a popularity metric, the fandom classics will usually be pushed to the top. I'll start going through the results and reading the stories that interest me.

When I finish a story I like, I go to the author's page and check out their other works and their bookmarks. Sometimes I'll read everything they've written right then, and sometimes I'll bookmark them in Firefox to come back to later.

If it's a really big fandom and there's no way I'll go through every page of results one by one, I'll also check out specific tags that raise the interest level of a story for me. For example, I like outsider perspectives a lot, so I'll search for stories with that tag.

If it's a fandom that's been around a long time, I'll also search within date ranges. "Kudos" are biased towards older stories that have more time to acquire more kudos. So I'll repeat the same search but only for stories updated within the last year, for example.

One difficulty with AO3 is that it's harder to find things that don't have a conventional fandom tag. If you're interested in "interaction between muggles and the wizarding world," authors who have written that will tag it differently or not at all. Once you find one, you can check out if anyone else has tagged their story similarly, but it's kind of hit or miss. You'll have to rely on the summaries or asking for recommendations.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:06 PM on May 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I liked Lust over Pendle and its sequel; lots of humor in the plot, and a lot of Muggles.
posted by clew at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

dirgewithoutblood is an author I really enjoyed. Here's the AO3 link.

Also, just nthing that the AO3 search feature is great. Especially the "exclude" option. If you're just getting into fanfiction, then you may or may not have come across the alpha/beta/omega universe of fanfictions. Unless your into that kind of thing, that's one handy thing to exclude from your search. And if you're not familiar with it, exclude it anyway and save yourself the pain of coming across a fic you think you'll enjoy, only for it all to go horribly, horribly wrong (ask me how I know *shudder*)

I'll try to dredge up some of my old favorite fanfics. I mostly read HP back in the day, on places like sugar quill. There are a lot of fics out there, so you'll definitely have to sort through some less good stuff, but there are some real gems.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:48 PM on May 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

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