I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with using fanon characterizations, though I think there's an epidemic of people sort of mixing up the fanon representation with the actual representation in the source material, and the characters become two dimensional. You can always tell someone who has obviously decided to write a fanfic because they read a whole bunch of other fanfics and are copying, because their characters are nothing like the source characters, or like real characters at all, for that matter. They are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, ripped from other fanfictions. Even worse is then you come across the fic that's obviously a rip off of a rip off and their characters are so stilted and exaggerated that you have to wonder if they've even seen/read in the original source.
I think you can kind of go against canon representations too a point. At some point though it's a totally different story with different characters, and you've just given them the names of the characters from that show or story, and that's just plain false advertizing. (I want to say fraudulence, but that is maybe a bit strong.) If you're going to go that far, just make an original story, because otherwise, you're really holding yourself back from being genuinely original and creative, and writing something that is solely your own.
I actually wrote my first movie parody fic today. I did Cinderella, though with a twist: I didn't use the Disney version. Instead, I used this version:
GFTC - Cinderella Part 1 of 5 - YouTube
I've actually grown to like it since I made that blog post criticizing it. It's not the best version, but at least it's better than the version with Brandy and Whitney Houston.
Anyway, in the story, Hilda is Cinderella and N is the prince. But I used Hall Matron Argenta as the wicked stepmother (I wanted to use a female character as the villain, so Ghetsis was out of the question). The stepmother in the version I used rivals Disney's stepmother in arrogance and cruelty. Argenta is a decent person in canon, so I did use a nice character as a villain. (And the GFTC version is technically anime, since I wanted to use something Japanese-made.)
I don't want to sound like a pessimist. Honestly and truthfully I don't, and I fear that this post will likely come across as such, but the biggest problem in fan-fiction today is an utter and complete unwillingness to advance in any meaningful way as an art form. I mean this. Day after day I look to see if anyone is trying anything new in terms of story structure, or character development, or has anything to add to the community at large, and all I see is stagnation. I see the journey story, or I see the conference story, or I see the love story or [insert your favorite trope here] and none of them have anything new or interesting to say about their respective series. The Pokémon fandom, for instance, is so stagnant that the most original thing to come out of it as of late are Pokémon-oriented stories told from the creatures' perspectives, yet these stories tend to be difficult to characterize because there is no insight for why the stories are being written. No one is asking why these stories benefit us as readers, or what sort of statement they are trying to make as art. They simply exist, as do the majority of stories available today. They are pulp, meant to be enjoyed briefly but rarely thought of for longer than it takes to read them. Fan-fiction that really impacts its readers in the long-term is few and far between.
It's unfortunate, it really is, because fan-fiction exists to fill a gap left by the creators that we wish to understand. Take Ash, for instance. Has anyone ever really asked who Ash Ketchum is? Why he went on his journey? Why he's so interested in capturing as many Pokémon as he can, and meeting as many people as he can? What keeps him going, year after year, unsatisfied with the small victories he has accrued? Consider the fact that he's the main character of his show, has been the main character on a popular show for more than a decade, and yet none of the writers, animators, voice actors, and producers have bothered to develop him in any significant way beyond the first few years of the show. It isn't in their best interest to explore him as a character, because exploring him as a character means limiting who he is. If the producers answer the question of what drives him underneath all that gusto, it tells us definitively why he is that way. The show will never do this, but fan-fiction can. Fan-fiction can answer questions that shows leave unanswered.
But they don't. When I heard they were planning on making new Star Wars movies, I was so excited because fans get a turn at the movies now. Fans can explore areas of the story that the creator never knew was there, and can make a profound impact on the stories those movies tell. Doctor Who is now written entirely by fans, which have really sought to ask questions about their protagonist and completely change the show from what it once was, and as a result the show is far better off now than it once was. Though I'm not a fan of it, I have to concede that the My Little Pony fandom is perhaps the most successful fan-base today, because it's filling in those gaps. It's trying to ask questions about the characters, and the creators are listening. But as long as the stories we tell in fan-fiction amount to nothing but brief distractions, the art will continue to remain stagnant and never evolve beyond a couple of people who really like a fandom pairing, but not enough to ask the questions of why we should like that pairing in the story itself.
I see where you're coming from, @Power Shot; but I think you might just be looking in the wrong places. I can't draw any from my own work, since I prefer the world of Pokemon to its characters (and in the future I definitely plan to do what you describe as far as filling in the gaps of this wonderful setting), but good examples do exist.
Striking Back: Memoirs of a Clone not only does exactly what you're talking about, but is generally one of my favorite pieces of written fiction ever.
The Power Inside also had a lot of promise, but sadly the author stopped writing it before things really got going (Pocket Monsters had similar potential, but suffered the same fate).
And let's not forget these three spectacular one-shots: Broken, Crushed, and New Game
I do agree though that examples like these are few and far between. I really wish more authors felt comfortable with tackling more complex ideas.
Aether X, I took a look at your example, Memoirs of a Clone, and I thank you for it. There is a definite hint of originality there, and it actually serves as a great example of what fan-fiction can be. It sets out to answer a question left unexplored by the series and adds something to our conversation. Sadly, these types of stories do tend to be the exception, not the norm, and I wonder if it's because of the pulp aspect of modern fan-fiction. The genre, as it stands, tends to exist solely on the internet and publishable by anyone; however, the genre used to have magazines. Notable writers contributed to fan-fiction because the genre was considered an extension, rather than a separate entity, from the original material. Star Trek used to have fanzines devoted to fan material from writers, so I wonder how the current climate changed that. How did fan-fiction go from a piece of the entertainment itself to what it is today, which tends to just want to retell the same stories or sexualize everything?
It's not that the "entertainment" aspect disappeared - it's that it got choked out by all those people who had never seen the same stories retold before and assumed that what they were doing really was new and out there. No doubt there probably still exist those gated communities that process and filter the work they receive; however, with the advent of massive self-publishing, these are now few and far between, and almost unnoticeable behind all the publicly available work. Essentially, the creative fandom got choked out by the consumer fandom trying to be creative.
Never read either, so I don't have an opinion, actually. I can't read Twilight, since it's so retarded and horribly written (this isn't an opinion that I just adopted for no reason. I've read parts, I couldn't stomach an entire book of it, IMO it is genuinely as awful as its haters claim), and I don't really have any desire to read asshole-boyfriend type stories, which is what Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be from what I've been told by me mom, who has read both. The usually docile feminist in me starts to rise up and turn into a ranting ultra-bitch when I read stuff like that. It just pisses me off.
If you mean do I have a problem with 'filing off the serial numbers' as it were, and turning a fan fiction into original fiction, then, no, I don't have a problem with it really. It's kind of the other way around I have more of a problem with. If people wanted to read an original story, they'd read an original story. They don't need you to trick them into reading it by poorly disguising it as fan fiction.
Actually, another problem of fanfiction is that most fanfic writers are working on their own. There is no assistant nor supervisor to help you. One can ask help on the web, but one cannot guarantee the other side is professional or not, and also the help is not as immediate as an actual person just next to you.
And because fanfic were not written for money, and doesn't earn much money even one sell it (Though, there exist a fanwork selling community in Japan that allows fanwork to be sold to public, that's for sure), so writer need another money-earning job to do, so it turns out fanfic writers do not have a lot of time to write, compare to those author do writing as a full-time job.
Well, pretty much every real writer who has every written and published anything wrote at least one of their books without professional assistance and while working a dead-beat job that had nothing to do with writing, before they started making enough money to do it full time. So lack of time and assistance doesn't factor in as much as you might think.
Definitely grammar and poor spelling. I search for fanfics and most of them just are written poorly, with barely any detail, and others are with great detail, and written like an expert, but too short. I have ideas of making some fanfics of my own, but usually the roadblock for me is running out of ideas or plot. The only good fanfics I CAN write without much roadblock is... erm... "explicit" fanfics...
Of all the things I consider to be problems, the one that bothers me the most is poor structure. People seem to put pencil to paper (fingers to keyboard?) and simply write without any real idea of where they want to end up or how they want to get there. This is something I do as a writing exercise or to work out ideas, but I clean it up afterward to have better flow and more clarity as well as to fit a bigger picture. I've read very good fanfiction with entire chapters worth skimming.
Would it kill them to use good grammar? I'm not even asking for perfect grammar - just good enough grammar that makes reading easier.