Being a teenage writer, who also happens to be quite lazy, I spend more time reading fiction and perusing writing forums than I do actually writing. Procrastination for the win right? Urgh... Anyway, a topic I see fairly often is "why do people write fanfiction?". As someone who is somewhat versed in both original fiction and fanfiction, I would say I'm in a fairly good position to answer. And the answer is very simple.
- Fanfiction has a reputation for being easier and of a lower quality, and so is more accessible.
Having read far too much fanfiction, I can say that fanfiction isn't any easier per se, nor is it generally of a lower quality than original fiction. Fanfiction, like everything else, follows Sturgeon's Law. It's just that good original fiction tends to be easier to find (though not all good fiction is easy to find) while good and bad fanfiction is all mixed in together. Likewise, it's not any easier. You still have to put tonnes of time into it, you (should still) have to research to make sure your points are all still correct (if to canon rather than anything else) and you still have to write well among other points. But as it has a reputation for both being easy and a low quality (It's not like any published fanfiction has exactly helped this reputation either *cough cough* I would be scowling at 50 Shades if I owned a copy *cough cough*) it makes it more accessible. Accessibility is important, especially when it comes to people who aren't sure of their abilities. They're more likely to write fanfiction as it's "easier" and "not as good" and so it's the ideal sandbox to write and grow, and maybe later go on to original fiction.
- Worried about getting your writing noticed? Here, have a built in fanbase*!
Go on, take a look at fanfiction.net. At time of writing, there are almost 649,000 Harry Potter fanfics. And I can guarantee every one of those will have views. Possibly even lots of views. My own badly thought-out, with hardly any connection to the original series fanfiction - which is hardly even started let alone anywhere near finished - has almost 2000 views. I would (well not really, I wouldn't go to jail for life for my writing's sake...) kill for that many views on my original fiction, as the fanfiction.net/fictionpress.com partner sites are great at letting you know what you need to work on by telling you the view numbers chapter by chapter - if there's a peak or a trough somewhere I know I did something well or badly even if no-one bothers to leave me any feedback (though feedback is my bread and butter, and I'd like that even more *cries*). I don't want to know the view counts for finished fics. More views = more confidence and more ways of seeing what you're doing that's right/wrong.
*Even if not the entire fanbase will be there as not everyone reads fanfiction, you still have a good chunk.
- Arguably, there's a larger scope for experimentation and being completely off-the-wall.
Jack and I were discussing recently why there's a horribly large number of fanfics with completely insane pairings, and why far more fanfics seem to focus on the sexual aspect. And also, how on earth Thirty H's (or more literally HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH) came into existence. My answer being that there's far more of a "why not?" about fanfiction, largely due to points one and two. If fanfiction is "easier", "of low quality" and still fairly guaranteed to get views, why would you not experiment? It's the ideal place to test out odd pairings, or odd scenarios, or odd themes. You've got this insane idea which, when even straw-polling your usually agreeable, yes-man friends is met with weird looks and questions like "are you on drugs?", and that you yourself don't think would ever make any real traction even if it would be interesting and fun to write. Why not tie it into fanfiction? Fanfiction is the ultimate wish-fulfilment mechanism. Writing sins aren't as easily forgiven in fanfiction as people believe, but still insane ideas are far more easily accepted.
So in conclusion, it's more accessible, it gets views, and it's great for experimentation (and anonymity in fact, but I'd argue that's another post) even if it's taken far less seriously and is far less (with small exception, not-at-all) likely to get published. If you just want to have some fun with your writing and show your love for or even mock (yes, there are people who write it for that reason O.o) an original work, then why not?
Hmm... I feel like I should say something here, but can't think what. So this is me acknowledging there should be a sentence or two here.
See you next time (which hopefully wont be long) :)