Wattpad: Fanfiction Only or Legitimate Publisher?

One word: Wattpad. Two opinions: good or bad? A disscusion of the website Wattpad and how its use has gone beyond cringey fan-fiction.

Wattpad: Fanfiction Only or Legitimate Publisher?

Wattpad. That’s all I have to say for you to turn red with secondhand embarrassment or to snicker at the word’s implications. Many people think that if you are a Wattpad reader or writer, you’re either single looking for romance stories or a geek in love with fictional characters. While sometimes true, this is not always the case. Some of today’s top series started as Wattpad stories. Don’t believe me? Just ask Anna Todd, the creator of the book series After, which started as a Harry Styles fanfiction and is now a major film series. Or ask Beth Reekles, author of The Kissing Booth, which is also now a romantic comedy on Netflix.

These novels and movies do have those toe-curling cliche scenes that make you say, “Yeah, this is definitely a Wattpad story,” but they are still considered legitimate art forms by many. Though many Wattpad stories have a reputation for being badly written and raunchy, some Wattpad novels can be quite lighthearted and helpful. Azia To for example wrote a semi-autobiographical self help book titled Tired of Being Tired, Sick of Being Sad. As a teenager with depression, she wanted to help others find their way through their struggles. Not everyone has immediate access to legitimate publishers, but they do have this free publishing website at their fingertips, so many teens and young adults turn to Wattpad as a way to display their creativity to the world. However, if everyone is able to freely write whatever and however they want, can Wattpad be considered a legitimate way to publish?

The After series by Anna Todd, which began as a Harry Styles fanfiction on Wattpad
The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles, adapted from Reekles’ story on Wattpad

Of course, Wattpad has acquired a bit of a shady reputation due to its scandalous and often questionable content, but not all media that is on there is bad. While there are many controversial stories on Wattpad, there are some, like To’s self help book, that are there simply because someone wants to be of some assistance or, like Todd’s After series, they have a story to tell.

For some people, publishing through established companies is simply out of the question, whether it be accessibility, money, or even personal morals and values. Some may believe that publishing through an established publisher will change them for the worse, possibly because they feel mainstream fame could go to their head.

Or perhaps a publishing company could have an unethical past or ways of running. Others might feel it’s an unfair advantage so they want to work for their name and fame. Therefore, releasing their creative works through websites such as Wattpad is the only real option. Although many have faced a societal stigma for being a Wattpad writer, it is still a legitimate way to publish their creative works. 

Archive Of Our Own, another site where users can publish original stories and fanfiction

However, not all Wattpad stories are exactly original plot lines; some stories are fanfictions and original fan headcanons. These stories can lead to the creation of some fandoms’ most favorite characters. For example, in the Harry Potter fandom, one of the most popular characters is Mattheo Riddle. Don’t remember him from the novels or movies? Well that’s because he’s a fan-made character that can be found in a Draco Malfoy centered fanfiction titled Possessive, which can be found on Wattpad and Archive of Our Own.

These fan-made characters are oftentimes important to fandoms because these characters provide representation that was originally lacking from the series. Other times, it is because fans love a character so much that they want to know what happens next to them. Using the example of Mattheo Riddle, some loved Tom Riddle so much that they wanted to give him a son or brother. (Depending on what you are watching or reading, Mattheo is either Tom’s brother or son. Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is.) Websites such as Wattpad or Archive of Our Own, despite their often uncomfortably detailed stories and reputations, can be great ways for young authors to develop their writing styles and their followings.

Due to the typically questionable reputations of Wattpad and its writers, there is a stigma around the creativity that lives on such websites. If society removes the stigma and generalization of the stories, people can see the talent and creativity that can be discovered and enjoyed by free publishing websites. As an aspiring authoress and actress, I know I would be thrilled if people took my characters beyond where I had them. But for now, I enjoy sitting outside with my tea, reading other people’s work, and waiting for the next fictional character, whether fan-made or canon, to fall in love with.