Fanfiction, usually shortened to either fanfic or fic, is a written work that takes place in a pre-existing fictional world and/or elements from preexisting movies, games, TV shows and other media. It’s enormously popular, with millions of writers and readers consuming and generating new content daily. If you’re not a fan of fanfic, you’ve probably only heard of it in disparaging terms. It’s an infringement of authors’ intellectual property, it’s not creative and it keeps kids locked up in their rooms pounding out thousands of words at a time, you've heard. If you do enjoy fic, you’ve probably felt fervent second-hand embarrassment watching a fan ask an actor about the possibility of a non-canonical gay romance between their character and another character.
However, starry eyed 12 year old fans and debatable negatives aside, fanfiction can be extremely enjoyable to create and/or consume.
1. Distraught or vexed after a terrible ending to your beloved show? Write your own!
I hear ya', Cap. Ever been emotionally wrecked or just plain bamboozled by an ending? Maybe the HIMYM series finale or Tony DiNozzo's departure from NCIS left you reeling. Maybe your fave couple never got together or they deserved so much better. With fanfic, you can write or read the ending your heart desires. Sometimes an epilogue of heartwarming, domestic fluff that your favorite superheroes deserve after several films of traumatizing near-apocalypses does the trick.
2. The Ships.
Now, I’m not talking about spaceships, boats or UPS. Shipping is believing in a romantic relationship between two (or more) characters. It can be something completely canon, something alluded to, or something that will never happen on TV, but you think it should because those characters would get along swimmingly. It’s fun, interesting and can produce more believable relationships than actual novels!
3. Really Rad AUs (Alternate Universes).
You know how the Marvel comic universe has multiple parallel universes and timelines? Well, you can have the same thing in fanfiction. You may have heard of the cliché coffee shop AU, or the fic that takes two characters you ship and puts them in a modern coffee shop where they meet for the first time. AUs can mess with time periods, settings, a specific trait of a specific universe or all of the above. For instance, you can have a Star Wars AU in which Obi Wan Kenobi’s force ghost is sent back through time into his younger body to prevent Anakin from falling to the dark side and the Republic from ruin. Or the Avengers might be angsty high schoolers. How about villains redeeming themselves and becoming part of the team? Pretty neat, huh?
4. Shameless Self-Inserts.
Often times, it’s not that us fans wish our favorite fictional characters were real, it’s that we wished we lived in their world. By inserting ourselves or an original character near and dear to our hearts into a fic, we can escape into that world for a while. Just don’t stay too long!
5. The actual writing can be mind mindbogglingly beautiful.
Same bro. There is one author I follow whose Star Wars fic series is one of the greatest literary masterpieces I have ever read in my entire life. It inspires me as a writer from a technical standpoint, it's provocative and gorgeous and I could go on all day. Long story short, there are some gifted fic writers out there and amazing content to read.
Warning: you might have to do some digging as there are also very sub-par fics out there.
6. Bad fanfic can be fun too.
Just as watching and ridiculing B movies is immensely enjoyable, so is reading aloud horrendously written fanfics. Whether the writing itself is laughably horrendous, the smut is anatomically inaccurate or both, you’ll get a good laugh.
7. Work on your writing skills.
Practice may not make perfect, but it does hone your skills. So, writing fic can help you build up your writer's chops. It also removes the hardship of creating your own fictional world, allowing you to plop your original characters down in Middle Earth or the Enterprise and watch them stretch their legs. This way you can learn more about them and practice writing a full story before tackling an original work.
8. Writing fic can be a gateway to getting original fiction published.
Writing fanfiction can be a gateway to getting your own original work published. I know several authors who have done just that, converting fic into original works (with original elements mind you, not copy and pasted fic) published online. Did you know that E.L. James's enormously successful Fifty Shades of Grey franchise started out as erotic twilight fanfiction? (If she can do it, I'd like to believe you can, too).
9. You can be bold and write whatever floats your boat.
One of the best things about fic is that you can write whatever the heck you want. Authors can play with typical tropes and themes customary to our literature and entertainment media. Rather than the straight forward, predictable superhero narrative or the cliché boy meets girl story, you can play with it and write lengthy, detailed works without worrying about “what will sell” and getting published/paid. Some people like to develop a minor character that doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but appeals to them or build up the lore of a fictional world.
10. Representation and diversity.
A lot of fic authors enjoy changing an aspect of a favorite character to represent themselves better. For personal representation and diversity in general, people might change a character's gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental health, etc. In this way, fanfic combats our entertainment media's tendency to generate stories geared toward white, straight males.
11. Community and feedback.
Many authors bounce ideas off of each other and have a close knit group of writers in their fandom whom they consider friends. In this vein, fanfic authors enjoy immediate, constructive feedback on their works in the forms of verbal flailing, crying and yelling about all the feels, detailed commentary, kudos, likes, etc.
12. And finally, "Fanfiction is a waste of people's time, talents, and-"
Okay, so fanfic does eat up a lot of time if you're a widely-viewed author or a loyal reader, but guess what? Writers typically go on hiatus or delay updates for college exams and other important life stuff. Most people enjoy it as a fulfilling hobby or constructive writing tool just like avid novel readers or people who follow sports religiously. If you're using it as an escape from life or logging more time into it then what is probably healthy, fanfiction is not the source of your trouble. It is merely a coping mechanism for whatever is at the root of your troubles. Besides, there are worse self-coping strategies than fanfiction.