Romance, Angst and Slash
The image of communities penning "what if?" stories purely for the enjoyment of friends may be a little idealistic, however. It implicitly suggests writing quality is a secondary concern. But in fact, the writers I interviewed felt it was a major issue with fanfiction. "Most of the writings I have read are too laid back," Tiut says. "They tend to be these short, pretty poorly thought-out stories that are just sort of done on the fly."
This issue is actually a source of tension within many fanfiction communities. While some are writing merely to entertain their fellow fans and have little reason to care about literary standards, other writers seeking to craft something with more depth view this approach as lazy. Tiut wishes all fanfiction writers would treat their works like a traditional novel and expressed frustration that too many pieces are released in an unpolished state. "I have no problem with the writer's desire to write about what they want, but I want to be able to read it, and I would enjoy it to be well thought-out," he says. Andrew goes even further, claiming that fanfiction's reputation for "abysmal tripe" was well-earned.
But the unique nature of fanfiction makes judging "quality" more subjective. The factors that define a "good" or "bad" piece of writing can be hard to pin down even with traditional literature, but Dean says relativism in the fanfiction community goes even further. "Some people enjoy [the] 'bad,' and some of that 'bad' means more to some people than simple critical value." This suggests that many readers of fanfiction find value in works which would be viewed as flawed from a technical, critical or narrative point of view. Furthermore, says Dean, fanfiction likes it that way. "[It] doesn't need to justify itself with examples of excellence; it doesn't care for the judgement of those not involved." If this is the case, attacking fanfiction on the basis of poor grammar or overuse of adverbs is somewhat pointless.