Headcanon means joining in

Because I’ve been writing fanfiction since I was a teenager, there’s a term I’m used to using. I was pondering recently if it’s an exclusively fandom phenomenon, or if everyone does it and we just don’t talk about it. The term is headcanon.



Canon is a body of facts. So in the Harry Potter series, it’s canon that Harry is James and Lily Potter’s son, and is a wizard. It’s also canon that Dumbledore is gay — because it might not be stated in the books, but the author has stated that it’s her true intent.

When a reader adds their own beliefs and ideas to the story experience, that’s headcanon. Maybe you read the Harry Potter series and imagine that Dumbledore had a pet rabbit when he was a kid. He found it injured and nursed it back to health, and kept it for a few happy years. There’s nothing in the books to confirm this — but there’s nothing to disprove it, either. Why did you imagine this? Maybe there’s a reason, some part of Dumbledore’s character that seems to suit a pet rabbit. Maybe there’s absolutely no reason at all. Either way, you choose to believe that Dumbledore had a rabbit at some point. Because you just like the idea of Dumbledore playing with a bunny, what’s wrong with that?


It’s a way of personally connecting to a fictional story. Or explaining plot holes and strange behaviour. Or maybe it’s a challenge to yourself, seeing if you can form a rational explanation for this bizarre idea you’ve just had. Sharing and discussing headcanon is big part of online fandom. Why do people spend their time writing and drawing for franchises they don’t own, producing work they can never sell? Well, because they truly love those franchises, for one thing. And because their quirky headcanons will probably never become part of canon. If they want to see the scenario happen, they need to make it happen with their own amateur work.

There are whole communities based on people sharing their headcanons. So I can’t help but wonder if Joe Average reads a Dan Brown novel on the subway and does the same thing. Imagines that Character A hates strawberries and always has, Character B has a secret crush on Minor Character Q, and Character C religiously attends their favourite bar’s karaoke night. Because if you’re already reading fiction, why not imagine?

Tell me, blog readers: do you make up headcanon for books, TV shows and other fictional media?

2 Comments on “Headcanon means joining in”

  1. Christa says:

    Since I sometimes write fanfiction, YES. I have headcanons. But for every movie I see, book I read, TV series I watch, it doesn’t mean I make something up. The material has to be interesting for me to do that.

    Or something in the story has to be ambiguous and invite further thought. The movie “Lost in Translation” has this bit toward the end where one character whispers words of advice to another character – but you can’t hear him! So I definitely have a headcanon of the words he said.

    • That’s true, you’re not likely to engage with a story that doesn’t engage you first. Although I’ve seen some great ideas out of people who aren’t interested in a franchise and say, “This story’d be better if [crazy but plausible scenario]”!

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