The Case for Reading Fanfiction
One of the most taboo topics in writing has always been fanfiction. Lots of people see it as just a weird, dark corner of the internet that no one would ever go to for quality content. It's an understandable first impression, especially if you look at some of the most popular stories on sites like Wattpad and Archive of our Own. Having titles like Fifty Shades of Grey (which, in case you were living under a rock, is a Twilight fanfiction with the names changed, essentially) associated with the community doesn't exactly help its reputation, either.
But there's something that a lot of people don't seem to realize about fanfiction: There are diamonds in the rough. With millions of original pieces created, there's absolutely no way that all of them are terrible. There have to be good ones in there somewhere. It's just a matter of finding them. Most people don't bother to take look beyond the surface, though, only taking a quick peek at one or two before deciding that they've seen enough.
Some works are even the length of fully-developed novels and beyond, coming in at 100k or 200k words before they wrap up. If you find a good quality fanfiction, the reward can be amazing. They're especially great for shows that leave off on a cliffhanger or feel underdeveloped. Some great ones will fill in a show or movie's gaps or will take the characters and place them in a completely different world. Alternate universes (known as AUs) are a great way for fans to exercise their imaginations and express their love for characters without keeping them set in the world they were created in.
Overall, fanfiction is a great way for people to get their creative juices flowing without making them go through all the steps of full-on story creation. Because, let's face it, making something completely original can be daunting. Fanfiction allows people to take characters they love that have already been created and flesh them out however they want. It's a way for fans to take their "what if" scenarios and share them with others. It's an extension of a community and, sometimes, can really produce some wonderful things.
Sure, there are plenty of icky, way too explicit, not well-written fanfics out there, but let's be honest. There's lots of self-published (or even traditionally published) works that fit that description, too.