Fan Fiction, in case you don’t know, is all about taking your favorite show, book series, movie, band, or basically anything, and writing your own scenarios with the characters. People post them online for other fans to read. Depending on the author or show creators, it may be an issue, or it could be completely fine. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I've heard rumors that TV shows have taken on Fan Fic writers because of their great ideas, though I have nothing to support that claim and it could be one of those urban legends. Plus, I have heard from multiple sources (including Mindy Kaling's book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns)) that one way to get your foot in the door for TV writing is to write mock-up scripts for shows and send them in to the writers, so I guess that is a viable form of Fan Fiction!
When it comes down to it though, essentially, you are stealing other people’s characters. The process of making and developing a character is something an author really puts a lot of thought and work into. They become your babies, even the bad guys. So when Fan Fic writers take your babies and write them into horrible situations that you would never put them into (cause they do, oh they do), it’s like...what?! I have not been in this situation, so I can only imagine how I’d feel, if you are a writer who has experienced this, I’d love to hear your feelings.
Now, when it comes to the writer of Fan Fiction, it really is a terrific exercise. It allows the writer to work within a pre-created world, free to develop plotting and writing skills without having to create characters. Yes, you have to support the character as it exists in the original form while you write in Fan Fiction, but there is that added benefit of anyone who is going to read your work already has an image in their mind of the character, so you don’t have to work as hard to get the reader on the same page as you. When I was a teenager writing Fan Fiction, I used to think I’d never be able to think up my own characters. I even sometimes have this fear within my current work, that I’ll never be able to make up anyone new once I’m through with writing this series, but I've done it before, I know I’ll do it again. I've said this in previous entries, but knowing your characters like they’re real people is one of the keys to having good stories. The process leading up to that point is such a huge endeavor, but I think it’s the most fun part of writing.
So, if you’re writing Fan Fiction for fun, that’s one thing (because yes, let’s admit, when you’re really excited about a set of characters, it is fun to write within that world, or even to experiment with things that would never happen), but keep in mind the possible legal issues that could arise with posting it online*. However, when it comes to being a writer with the goal of publication, Fan Fiction is not viable for that purpose. This is why Fan Fiction really should be used as an exercise/stepping stone for early writers looking to develop foundations. If you intend to write fiction you’d like to someday see published, you should know that as a Fan Fiction writer, you do have those foundations you just have to trust yourself to expand!
*Wikipedia actually has an entry about the legality of Fan Fiction, in case you are interested in reading more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_issues_with_fan_fiction