We all know fanfiction is a huge thing. It used to be that reading fanfiction made you weird, and maybe it still does, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it seems more mainstream now than when I was in high school (I graduated in 2009, if you’re wondering) so it doesn’t seem to be as cringy to say that you read fanfiction, or write it.
I don’t think I’ve ever been ashamed about writing and reading fanfiction. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for fanfiction, I wouldn’t have written as much as I did in high school and college, and my writing wouldn’t have gotten better over the years to the point where I had confidence to write a book. So, I’m personally thankful for it. And it gave me a lifelong, long-distance friend who is probably one of my closest friends.
So, what exactly is it about fanfiction that makes it so popular? Well, I can’t say for sure, but these are some reasons why I enjoy fanfiction, and why I think it’s still such a big thing today.
Reasons Why People Might Enjoy Fanfiction
Familiarity of Characters
Reading or writing about characters you love is such a joy. It’s why we readers love series, because we can spend more time with our favorite fictional people for as long as the series goes on. But when it ends…? Well, that’s where fanfiction comes in. I don’t think standalone books are as popular when it comes to fanfiction, but there are a lot of series that are “continued” or reimagined on fanfiction.net and Wattpad.
Obviously, TV shows/animation/cartoons are probably the most popular categories where fanfiction gets written, because it’s (most likely) the easier ones. I think I actually read more in the TV show/cartoon categories, with movies being second, and then the only book fanfiction I ever read is Harry Potter. My point here, though, is that it’s nice to revisit your favorite characters in new settings, or picking up where the story left off.
Getting the Ending/Pairing You Wanted
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been disappointed in the ending or pairing of some fandom we’re a part of. I know in Gilmore Girls, I really wanted Rory and Jess to end up together, but that didn’t happen. Or in Glee, I was of the Puckleberry tribe, even though they barely had a relationship… I still thought they would’ve been a fun couple. Sometimes a show is canceled before you get a real ending, and you either end up with a rushed one that doesn’t feel complete (like on Zoey 101 or Girl Meets World) or not getting an ending at all and the show just stops (Victorious, Hellcats). At least in fanfiction, writers can imagine new endings for these characters to satisfy the masses, or reimagine the show for the couple that you wanted.
Situations That Would Never Happen
A lot of times there are situations that fans would like to see in a show or a book, but because of the targeted audience, those situations would never happen. This is typically limited to any shows/movies on Disney Channel/Nickelodeon or books targeted at middle-grade and younger audiences. For instance, I can’t tell you how many dark twists some Disney shows and movies could have taken, had they not been for Disney Channel. Fanfiction is where we can explore those options. And it’s not always dark stuff that happens, but it could just be a situation that was never thought of for the show/movie/book. And, of course, this could include pairings that didn’t happen because maybe you see that two characters have so much chemistry, but it’s never once hinted that they could become something.
Disney Channel is notorious for their crossovers with their shows. Putting characters from one show into another is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on TV. The only Nickelodeon shows that I remember a crossover for is iCarly and Victorious… that was a good special. It’s definitely not common in books, unless it’s a crossover that the author wrote between two of their own books – like Double Crossed by Ally Carter or how some authors, like Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen, include characters from a previous book in their newest one.
Either way, it’s always fun to see how characters from other shows/series interact with one another when they’re put together. One of my favorite crossover categories on fanfiction.net is Wizards of Waverly Place with Harry Potter. There are a few good ones in that category that blew my mind and I wish there were more. There have been other crossovers that I’ve loved for other fandoms that are just amazing. Never underestimate the power of a crossover fanfiction done right.
When it comes to fanfiction, it’s all about the “what-ifs?” and when these stories are thought out and written well, they’re just as good as reading a novel. Honestly, sometimes I get mixed up with a TV show and whether or not something happened in it because a fanfiction I read was so much like an episode that I forget what was real and what was fanfiction.
In any case, I think the main reason why fanfiction is such a big deal for people is because it allows us to spend more time with characters we love. I know that’s why I like reading it. I love seeing characters going on with their lives, seeing the “missing moments” that weren’t in the show/book, and seeing them in alternate situations.
Do you read fanfiction? If you do, why do you think you enjoy it?