How Wattpad shaped many of us
Slash fiction, fanfiction, or all those stories that can be found on Wattpad and many other similar sites were often an escape for many of us. As an avid reader I started off with reading all the classics, from Mallory Towers to Little Women to Jane Austen and when my parents got tired of buying me books every month, I resorted to looking for them online and that is when I stumbled into the world of fanfiction or slash fiction. Wattpad and other sites like archieveofourown or fanfiction.net were (are) full of thousands of stories with the most creative plot lines you could find out there.
You had to struggle through a few badly written stories or outrageous plots until you found the authors and themes that were actually really well throughout and written. These writers were mostly teens and they were writing as a passion or hobby. Yet these authors connected wrote whole planned out stories that could be called novels, many having multiple parts. Many authors found popularity on these platforms and were encouraged by their readers to publish, and given the opportunities to get their work professionally recognised; not only have wattpad writers gotten their works published but Netflix has also adapted atleast 2 movies off of wattpad novels.
The support that these authors got was in part due to their connection with the audience, there were authors' notes about uploading late cause of exams, uploading while on vacation, or just little anecdotes that bridged the gap between reader and writer, making authors feel less allusive and mysterious. Writers also entertained their readership by dedicating bonus chapters or giving shoutouts and the audience responded in kind. I remember waiting weeks for uploads, as did many others, leaving positive feedback and comments on stories so that the author would upload sooner and we could get closure. Before Wattpad grew into what it is today, it was swarmed with young people writing their hearts out, other young people being proofreaders (or betas as they call them), or just readers giving feedback.
It created an environment that encouraged learning way more than most English classrooms. It was also a place where we didn't look at texts as good or bad or with the subconscious influence of education or media, if you loved a writer, you overlooked the grammatical errors (or suggested fixes in the comments) and continued reading for their plotline. These stories were also constructing narratives that were not governed by normal societal norms and instead were subverting from patriarchy and approaching the prototypical tropes and protagonists with a different lens.
Wattpad also allowed you to discover so many different genres, you could read historical fiction or supernatural romances and live vicariously through those questionable characters without the stringent need to be overly critical about texts. I am still amazed by Wattpad not only for its riveting content but also for the community it gave to young people and how it broke traditional barriers of literature, it allowed anyone with a passion for writing the means to do so (I occasionally still resort to reading some stuff on it as a guilty pleasure). It was a vital part of my friends’ and i’s teenage years and I’m grateful that my reading abilities developed partly in this environment as well.