I love fan fiction! I don't care what anybody says, even if Fifty Shades of Grey is a fan fiction of Twilight, it's still literature on its own, even if it is erotic. Fan fiction is like the candy of the book world. It can be sugary, sweet, salty, bitter or it can be all of them combined, but it always reminds you of something else. It's like the dirty little secret TV show everybody has. Fan fiction is great! It gives writers who may be new to writing the world to build within without having to invent it from scratch. It provides the scaffolding for someone who may not know exactly how to character build but does know how to write dialogue. Alternatively, it can also give someone a sandbox to play in while they practice a few different concepts without being overloaded.
Imagine Harry Potter; everybody knows Harry Potter. You know it's about wizards, you identify with the Muggles, and you know it's about a dark wizard trying to take over the world. But do you know about Rose Bronson? Probably not. Rose is the third year, who excels at potions, sucks at flying, and has a green thumb for herbology. She's a Hufflepuff that the sorting hat almost placed in Slytherin. Both of her parents were wizards before her, though Rose does have a little brother who has not yet received his letter for Hogwarts. Rose has a best friend in the form of a cat, but what she doesn't know is that her cat is another wizard who has shifted and stayed a secret so he may help her achieve her destiny of becoming the next minister of magic.
OK, so that wasn't great, but it was off the top of my head, and to be fair I've never written fan fiction for Harry Potter. But, I had fun. I sat in my car and wrote a few sentences in somebody else's world, and it was satisfying and creative. My brain engaged, spinning tales, and looking for connections from J. K. Rowling's world to my character, Rose. There's not a lot required for fan fiction if you don't want there to be. Take a planet name, take a school, take the bare minimum necessary to get your juices flowing. Or you can borrow heavily from the world already created and set up your adventure. It's all up to the writer.
As a reader, I already know the basis for where my characters are and what they may or may not do. For example, I know that Rose cannot apparate. She's too young, and it's not allowed on Hogwarts grounds. I also know that her having a cat at school, is both allowed and encouraged. I know these things because I've read the original Harry Potter's. Without that knowledge, there may not have been enough world building already there for me to understand and know about implicitly. This frees both the writer and the reader to have to pay attention to less. They can focus on using words to express their story and less of the background. All of that hard work the author already did.
What do you think? Do you like reading fan fiction? Do you like writing fan fiction? If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments below and share it with others. Junk food and candy are for sharing, think of it as a book reading sleep over.