When the canon isn't enough

Check out the definitions and discussions of fanfiction at the Urban Dictionary, too.

Fanfiction is, as the name suggests, fiction by fans; it refers to stories thought of and written by fans of and about a certain show/series/text, based on the original universe and using the characters, but putting them in scenes, situations, and sometimes characterization that deviate from the canon setting, timeline, and character portrayal. Fanfiction is never written for profit, and many sites like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own (which defines fanworks not as derivative, but as transformative, works) allow users to publish their works for free. Entire communities in social media and other similar sites have been built around this concept/subculture.

So yes, I enjoy reading fiction about fiction. I know, it's very meta. (Once upon a time I wrote my own stories and posted them under a different alias. I reasoned then that I would write the stories I wanted to read. Every so often a plot bunny still wouldn't leave me alone, but I defer to the better wordsmiths in the fandom.)

I turn to fanfiction when the original leaves me wanting more. My very first orientation into fandom was through fanfiction. I think I first started reading fics when I was 12 (back when the Internet was a glorious and expensive thing), and it may have been a Rurouni Kenshin story. I liked Kenshin and Kaoru (and I still do—they're one of my major OTPs), and I was looking for something to further satisfy my fascination with the pair. Reading fics fulfilled that thirst—I usually get into reading fics when I really like a series and I want more.

Twenty-plus years later, I still foray into fics whenever I want to get to know a new fandom. (This means that not every series/show/text I watch will lead me into fandom; if I am satisfied with the canon, I will not turn to fics.) A really good fic is, to put it one way, a very, very good analysis rendered as a well-written story. To me, the best ones not only reveal a certain literary grasp of handling the narrative and characters (and making sure it complies with the canon storyline and characterization, although I do enjoy the occasional AU). Above all, the best fics reveal an intimate knowledge of the series, indicating that the writer him/herself has a keen insight into the story and knows how to take it further.