Yesterday I talked about the constraints of an established universe and what to do if you want to avoid raising the ire of the fan community. However, keep in mind that this is merely advice for most fan works. Sometimes you want to break the established constructs for one reason or another. That’s fine. Nothing new is created without something old being at least partially destroyed.
This is done a lot in fanfiction. A lot of Mary Sues are born out of a writer’s desire to break a character’s norms, have them develop in a different way. Most of the time, that ‘different way’ is falling in love with/universally praising/getting in a situation in which they can only be saved by the aforementioned Sue. On the one hand, this isn’t a bad way to acquaint oneself with writing within the constraints of a given established universe, or more than one if you’re doing a crossover. On the other, be prepared for even more flak than usual depending on which direction your Sue takes you.
I’m not saying all fan fiction has Sues or author insertion characters. The crossover epic Unity keeps the characters from both established universes pretty consistent while playing with reader expectations. If pressed to recommend some “good” fan fiction, that’d be it.
And then there are parodies.
A good example of using lore for the purpose of parody is a YouTube series called The GMod Idiot Box, created by some guy calling himself Das Bo Schitt. While there’s some pretty screwball comedy that goes on within the episodes, he actually goes to some length describing how his characters came to be. He couples familiar sights and sounds from popular Valve games with well-chosen music and some classic comedy gags. I can’t say everybody would enjoy the videos, as some of the comedy borders on the juvenile, but some of it does get me rolling on the floor laughing.
Which says a lot about me, I guess.
Anyway, those are a couple ways a writer or artist can use established lore without staying entirely constrained within its mores. What are some others?
So Blizzard’s having this contest and I wrote something for it. Given that this is a piece of fiction written within an established universe it is, in essence, a work of fan fiction. Now there’s a lot of fan fiction, from the drabbles that put Harry Potter in bed with Draco Malfoy to the novels published in the universes of Warhammer or Star Wars. There are some things, in my experience, that separate good works of this type from the bad ones.
It all comes down to doing the research.
If you want to avoid derailing a character’s development, ensure your work fits into the tapestry of the universe and match the tone of previous works while providing your unique voice, you have to know the facts about your piece back to front. If the universe began as movies, watch them; as novels, read them; as games, play them. Know the characters, settings, themes and moods. A lot of established fictional universes have on-line resources, from basic fan-sites to extensive wikis – make use of these resources.
There’s established lore out there, and if you ignore it, by either not researching it or choosing to omit it, bad things can happen. It might not make the work entirely unsuccessful, but you might have to weather criticism such as “This character would never act that way,” “The timeline of these events is all screwed up,” or “[insert author name here] doesn’t know how to write women properly.”
Walking into a place filled with lore looking to tell a new story can be a lot like walking into a minefield. If you don’t watch your step, your journey will end very abruptly and messily.
Concluding one of the possible ways the story arc of those Star Wars prequels could have gone if I’d written them. Episode 1 is here, and Episode 2 is here. Remember, I don’t own anything created by Lucas and I’m not looking to profit from any of this, but it is my work and if you want to quote or use part of it, please give me appropriate credit.
Continuing the sort of plots, characters and themes I’d have pursued if it had fallen to me to write the Star Wars prequels. Episode 1 is right here. This one ended up a bit longer than I thought it would. I could probably work C-3P0 and R2-D2 in here somewhere, but I’d rather focus on the characters that really needed help. As before, I don’t own anything created by Lucas and I’m not looking to profit from any of this, but it is my work and if you want to quote or use part of it, please give me appropriate credit.
So I think a good way to spend at least part of this holiday weekend is to put down some of the thoughts I’ve had about what could’ve been done with the Star Wars prequels. Utterly pointless, but then again, so are the prequels as they stand now. It goes without saying that I don’t own anything created by Lucas and I’m not looking to profit from any of this, but it is my work and if you want to quote or use part of it, please give me appropriate credit.