Fanfiction and Story Insights: Or Plausible Creativity

It’s been a while, yet again. I know that I have talked about fanfiction before, but I have been working on a particular story on A03 that has made me think about certain elements. It also helps that this DeviantArt article on Mary-Sues was brought to my attention. I don’t know if I agree with a lot of it, necessarily, but there are some good insights within it with regards to making a particularly plausible or believable character in which to make a story of a similar kind around.

It is important to bear in mind that any character you create, as a writer, should have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as have different relationships with other characters and environments. In other words, a good character is arguably as close to a realistic person as you can make them, even on a basic level, where they have different facets that you as a writer can explore.

But I have been thinking less about this point, and more about how to write fanfiction: specifically setting a story in an established fictional universe. And I’m afraid that I have less advice to give, and more of my own personal insights — or what works for me — to actually talk about.

I find that what really works for me is to use characters that already exist. Often, I can create dialogue and character studies and let them play off of each other. The dialogue is important to me as it embodies who those characters are, how they are different or similar to one another, and what is actually important to them. Sometimes I will even act out those characters, aloud or in my mind — as I do with my original fiction — and see what happens from there.

I research them and their world as much as possible. Sometimes I don’t necessarily read the original work or narrative from where they come from, or the particular element that I want to focus on, but I will read up on it in encyclopedia articles. In some cases, I will look at other media such as animation or film instead of the original texts. This isn’t always the case, but especially for Star Wars Expanded Universe and Fate/Stay Night I tend to do this.

For me, I find the best fanfiction — that I can make — is the more plausible kind. I try to work with continuity and the rules of the world in question as much as I can understand or, learn about them. I do not add new abilities or characters, but if I do I will try to incorporate some kind of logic or description of them that fits that world, and describe their mentalities in a way that makes sense as either influenced by the world or the pre-existing characters.

A lot of it, for me, is extrapolation: seeing how the characters function in that world and then placing them in another situation or series thereof and seeing how they will pan out from there. Often I focus a lot less on physical description, and — as I said before — dialogue, but also a lot of third-person limited introspection. I tend to refer back to events, creating call backs, to both things that happened in canon and things that happened in my fanfic as well — in the narrative — to fully flesh things out further and add to that sense of plausibility.

The way I see it, at least with the fanfic I have been writing for over seventy chapters as of this post, I have done a few things. First, I extrapolated on the characters previous actions and emotions and gradually transitioned them into newer but familiar places. I have made original characters too that I might plan to use in another fanfic, or a sequel, but I use them sparingly. When I build up events or changes, I make sure to show all of the steps. Sometimes I will describe something. Other things I will reveal it through dialogue, limited narrative perspective, or even an italics-based first person point of view throughout the work.

But sometimes, there is the other challenge. Imagine you are trying to work in a creative sand box, but you have this idea that is incredibly fascinating to you. You look at it, and you feel like it would make for an excellent development in the story, a nice chapter for instance, but you don’t know if you can describe it well, or if it works in the lore of that world. Sometimes you have to let it go, for the story’s flow, and for the sake of your own sanity. Certainly, you will have a fanbase of that world watching your every move in some form to consider.

At the same time, though, sometimes it is for the sake of the story itself that you should in fact challenge yourself in adding this new chapter or element. The main challenge is incorporating it into that world. You can do it by making it clear this world is just a gradation or variant of the established one. Or, conversely, you can leave it open and ambiguous: with just enough examination or description to hint on one thing, or another and leave people to wonder. For instance, I gave a character an ability she probably shouldn’t have had, but I played around with the relatively ambiguous and not always orderly rules of that world: and I described a way in which she could have gotten that skill in a few ways, and how it fit her power and her intention.

Basically, I extrapolated a character’s abilities after her time in canon, with what little knowledge we were given of them after the fact, and then added this little surprise. And then I had her and another character address this: where even they were not entirely sure how she could do some of these things, or how it worked. It is a little jaded and self-aware, but I took advantage of a loophole in their knowledge and offered a plausible explanation — or head-canon on my part — to make it possible. To me, it made sense. I had to rewrite some of it, but I think it works and I am glad I took that risk because it makes the whole fanfic stronger for it.

For the most part I have been careful, building it up, but in that particular instance I thought starting with a fight — even in an unfamiliar place to me and the characters — worked. I did research it as much as I could, aspects and all, but in the end I just had to write the damned thing. And like I said, it worked for me.

And then, in this same fic, I have had other challenges which in turn have offered unique solutions. For instance, mythological figures are used in the world in which I am writing. So at a few points, the characters have found or searched for items associated with these figures. Most of these artifacts have been described in the story, or in encyclopedias. However, some of them have not. I found myself in a quandary: where I had to determine what these artifacts were, how powerful they are, and how they were different from each other. There was one in particular that I had no information about beyond a basic description in normal Wikipedia or elsewhere. And it wasn’t even in the fictional universe I was working within.

So what I did, was I took the artifact and described what it could look like. I gave it something of a Whovian perception filter: that some characters could see it and have some idea of it, and others could not. And even the ones that could knew that they saw something subjective. And it matched the nature of what the item was, and what it does. I explained, through dialogue and some thoughts of one mythological figure how this might be so, and how it was different from a similar artifact which went back into this character’s history a bit. I also gave an explanation as to how another enchantment of hers was related or derived from said artifact. And because she is so old, and due to the reason she exists again, she doesn’t remember all of it. But in the end, it isn’t that important. What is important is that I grafted an item related to a mythological character who has been adapted into that universe. I made it plausible. And I covered my own ass, hopefully well, by making that knowledge subjective through that character’s perspective.

I’m not going to say that I’ve been perfect, because I’m not. I have a feeling there might be some loose ends in the tapestry I am forming from my idea of a pre-existing one. And here is the most important thing that I have to tell you.

The best thing you can do when writing a fanfic is to put your slant on that world. Your voice. The way that you want to look at that world. When I write a story, I look at character interactions, and philosophical implications: specifically introspection and development in between the fighting, the fucking, the walking, the sitting, and the discussion of past and present events. I want to deal with actual talking, and dealing with closure: as well as emotions coming from the results of consequences. Not everyone is interested in that focus, and I know that.

Some fanfic readers want to see the minutiae of that world and their favourite characters unfold. Some want to see the stories of their heroes continue. Others want to see those conflicts from canon get resolved or come to a head: to have the good person get their justice, or the jerk get smashed in the head with a baseball bat. Others want to see characters they hate die or suffer, or others ascend to greater potential.

Honestly, I have had commenters on my fic request romantic pairings, and outright fucking.

The point is, everyone has different expectations and you have to tell the story that you want to tell. You will never be the original creator, and that is a good thing. You can explore things and do things in ways they did not. As for me, I like to remain plausible and retain a sense of continuity, but I will suspend it for the sake of what it is all is — entertainment — while backing up what I say with details if I can, or I will fudge it by finding some kind of ambiguous loophole while making it all about those character interactions.

Now this, all of this here, was a lot of text to read. So thank you for reading this far. I have to say, writing so much is exercising my mind: getting me to research, think, and plan creatively. I am still working on my own projects in the mean time and, who knows? Maybe one day I will share some of them with you, once again. I hope to write to you all again soon, as time goes. Take care everyone.

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Anklebiters: Pixies Vs. Gremlins

Hello all. It has been a while since I’ve written here: something that I find I’ve been saying a lot. I have a few things going on, including some original creative work that I finally have formulating in my mind. And I can’t wait to see where I go with that.

It might be a while before I say anything about some of the other things I have planned. However, I would like to take the time to plug a card game in here. It’s not just any card game. Imagine a world, our world, where small creatures unnoticed by the rest of us dwell in the corners of the detritus we create everyday and wage wars for sacred leylines and land to summon a powerful being that will make them dominant over their fellows. Pixies use misdirection and magic to get their way, their whimsy just a mask for their adamant defense of Nature, while Gremlins cobble together siege weapons, and alternatively sabotage other machines, mechanisms, and places to secure power for themselves.

That is the setting for Pandora’s Fox’s Anklebiters – Pixies Vs. Gremlins: an urban fantasy card game where you play as either Pixies, or Gremlins in an attempt to seize areas of the land — including forests and junkyards — in order to get possession of sacred rune stones that will allow you to unleash the power of the Wolpertinger and gain you sovereignty over your small world.

The people at Pandora’s Fox, the company creating this card game, are my friends Noah Marton, the game designer of Pixies Vs. Gremlins, and Claire Beard, its graphic artist and video designer for the Kickstarter Campaign. For anyone of you that are interested in card games, or card games set with magic, and whimsy on the fringes of human society, I would recommend you look at the Kickstarter Campaign that I’ve linked into the title.

My friends at Pandora’s Fox will do great things with any support that you can give them. In fact, I suspect they already have. Please take a look at the Campaign link, Pandora’s Fox Incorporated website, and its Facebook page. Please buy a game if you are interested and/or Like and Share it on the social media of your choice. After all, we need more eyes on these small beings, and I for one would definitely like to know what they will be up to, and what they are already doing. You can’t let it, or them, out of your sight. 😉

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Impossible Horror: Screamers

Dedicated to Justin Decloux and Nate Wilson’s horror film Impossible Horror.

The Scream calls to me.

I’ve spent my entire life, what was left of it, trying to figure out what the Scream was. I wasn’t the only one. There was a team in Toronto, Ontario of sorts. Each one of the hunters, as they called themselves, planned to define the Scream on their terms, or use it to gain achievement in their respective fields. They were varied: a mathematician, a writer, even a cook … among others. The latest hunter was a thwarted short horror filmmaker … well, at least until the end.

What they didn’t realize, any of them, about the Scream until it was relatively too late, is the truth behind it.

I’ve jump-cut a few years into the past, when I still live on residence. I’m just an Undergrad, a freshman now. I study Humanities. My previous self can’t see me. The sweat shirt and hoodie really do wonders. I fancied myself something of a philosopher, back then, with a tangential love for the movies. Even now, I’m not really a film buff: but I’ve learned some of the conventions. I can see how frustrated I used to be: how cramped, and scared of the world I was in my tiny little apartment. It’s just building inside of me, and I don’t even see it. I don’t want to see it. I pass myself a scrap piece of paper, from the shadows, on my old desk when I’m not looking. It tells me to read Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Only the first volume. I’ll think that I wrote this to myself, and forgot about it.

Then I jump-cut again.

Right. The Scream. The Scream is a primal force. Perhaps even a primordial one. I suspect it’s been here ever since we, humanity, has been in this reality. It is visceral, but so innate that it can’t really be heard so much as felt through different media, different lenses of truth, and understanding. It roars at us, at some of us in particular, through the static of our flat, blank, little lives.

One moment. I just remembered something.

I jump-cut. It’s the end of high school. My friends have moved onto other universities and their careers. Some will start their families. I’m alone. Left behind. I’m drifting around already. My relationship just ended a few days ago, at this time. It won’t take me long to time this right. I’ve read enough poetry to realize that everything has a pulse and a rhythm. A beat.

Yes. At the library that gets closed down in a few more years, I pull out a book from the shelf. Before I learn that what you fear is what you ultimately desire, I have yet to understand that the oldest fear of all is the fear of the unknown. I leave a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories to slip out right in front of me, the name already tangentially in my mind,leaving it to ferment there, before letting me and my hooded sweatshirt blend right back into the shadows …

They wanted to stop the Scream. The Scream itself is more powerful than a ghost. Ghosts that just echoes of thoughts, and scattered impulses without grounding. Sometimes they can affect a place, but they only have scraps of the Scream: of the ancient, instinctual urge. But even they, these faint resonances, have to possess some kind of link, or connection to people … and it becomes too much of an effort.

I walk on one side of my friends. Then another. We are friends. We are strangers. Flickering back and forth, I explore the city and it is hard to keep track of where I am, or where I even was.

“Lovely weather, we are having.” I say. In. A. Stilted. Voice. More. Separate. Words. Than. Sentences. “I. Was. The. Person.” I tell someone else, who I grow … grew … will grow close to for a time. “Who talked to you about non-Euclidean geometry.”

That is the moment. The seed from high school grows, watered by the blood of Clive Barker, but I don’t know that part yet, blooms into different micro-filaments more intricate that the film reels the wraiths pull out of the filmmaker’s guts and I follow them through the city.

I stand still as the city grows. Sim City. Civilization. Italo Calvino. Neil Gaiman. The Invisibles. The city is built by the dead built by the living by the dead as it swallows my family, my family doctor, my dentist, my friends, my lovers, my past my future my possibilities the things that happened the things that didn’t my self my life … The City is the Book and the Book is the hungry, beautiful Night that keeps on consuming …

The burning in my gullet from freshman university, from after high school, grows.

At first, I only jump-cut around the people I knew. Day and night became the same to me. I was just there. I realize that I have always just been here.

But isn’t the city. The city isn’t blood and mortar and bones and bad modernist poetry. Non-Euclidean geometry is the architecture of reality, of a gullet, of a constricted throat … and I am about to … about to …

I watch. I’m a student. A scholar. I trace things back to the source. As far as I can go. I’m tired of these clipped sentences that should really be separate words surrounding a larger idea. I know how this supposed to end. I know how it needs to continue.

I stop hunting the Scream that keeps me up at night. That keeps me from sleeping. I don’t go as far as the mathematician that scars himself with arcane symbolic logic and cocoons himself in a girl’s worst nightmares, trying to choke the blackness back, swollen and infected. I watch what it does. I observe. I research.

Writing out my findings, in my blood, makes the jump cut faster. But I’m getting numb. And that’s when I realize it. I realize it faster than the video gamer, and it figures that the video game would be the only survivor — the only hunter left — so far due to her staccato rhythm, but slow enough for the idea to reach its natural pitch.

I’ve grown distant enough that the words in my skin don’t hurt anymore, but it’s harder to hear the words: the ones that matter. Blood grounds the Scream. It feeds it.

It makes it real.

I stop to kill a person. It doesn’t take long. It happened a thousand years ago.

I keep going. Maybe it’s someone different. Or perhaps it’s the same person, over and again. It might even be me. The loneliness inside of me, the last emotion left, keens. It wails. I’m sure it creates its own echoes, scraps of paper through the city. The video gamer rips up the Book, the source, she thinks, and I feel the roar inside me multiplying, no longer carried along by the filmmaker … I thought I needed the Book. But I didn’t. We don’t.

We don’t hunt the Scream, you and I. We take it. We embrace it. And then, like life, we let it go. I remember who I am. I’m a student. A teacher. A teacher wants to spread their knowledge, to disseminate it throughout the world, and into willing minds. I can hear it so clearly now. The Book could make it so easy to jump-cut, but it’s gone. Even so, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Writing a pastiche? Taking Lovecraft and Barker and piecing it altogether like a ransom note in a family album organized like a jigsaw puzzle of flesh and nightmares like William S. Burroughs?

That is all right. I hear us now. Congratulations, gamer. We are released. Banshees. Scream Queens. Screamers. We feed the Scream with the blood of others. I take a deep breath. The new Book can wait. Instead of swallowing the dark tide, I rip apart the two-dimensional paper of it all, the fake gestures, the empty lives … I follow the tide of the seeds released from the pieces of the Book. Scraps of paper flying scattered throughout space and time. I take off my hoodie. I don’t need it anymore. I throw back my head into the growing Night.

And I Scream.

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Nilthene and the Blue Dragon

I wrote this for The Hoard of the Dragon Queen Campaign for Dungeons and Dragons. As such, there be SPOILERS here. You have been warned.

This is the full speech that my Dragonborn sorceress Nilthene Silvermine delivered to the Blue Dragon Lenethon in our last session in order to get him to leave the Governor’s Keep of Greenest alone.

It began when Nilthene utilized her Message Cantrip, and addressed the attacking Dragon in the Draconic Language. 

“Great Dragon, Draconic Elder. I am the Dragonborn Nilthene of the Clan of Silvermine. On behalf of the people of Greenest, and in accordance to the Ancient Ways, I wish to make parley with you. Please meet me on the parapet of this Tower, if you would be so inclined. Thank you.”

Then, surrounded by Greenest’s terrified archers, the Dragon rose up to meet with Nilthene, and her Druid companion who had been brave enough to risk instant vaporization from lightning breath. 

“May I ask whom it is that I have the honour of addressing, Great Dragon?”

At this point, he said “You may,” and he revealed himself to be the Blue Dragon Lenethon. The rest of my speech, which I delivered in part, and kept to the spirit thereof is the following. 

“Lenethon, I would like to thank you for your patience as I make my case, and request that you withhold your judgment until I say my peace. Is that acceptable?”

For the moment, it was. The rest is as follows.

“I am born of the Silver Dragon Alesandra’s line, and while I know that the Chromatic and Metallic Dragons clash in many ways, our blood does agree on one thing. Dignity.”

“The people of Greenest have little to offer you — and you personally. They have some baubles, a few minor trinkets, but most of their wealth comes through trade and agriculture. But I suspect you already know this or, if not, it is unimportant to you.

“The Cult of the Dragon has always trade to seduce Dragons of … lesser stature and hoards into becoming undead abominations: animated idols that they worship to fill their own empty lives. They have never truly respected the blood of a true Dragon.

“This … new Prophet of their, Severin Silrazrin, and his lieutenants Fulram Mondath and Langedrosasyrith seem no different. In fact, they’re even less worthy. You see, I think the ‘Prophet’ actually leads a breakaway sect of the group, worshiping Tiamat. Or he has not consolidated his power as much as he’d like others to believe. You’ve surely noticed how his Cult relies on the services of mercenaries, hungry only for gold instead of glory, and mindless kobold slaves.

“In fact, I am fairly certain that the only reason this fledgling order even took Greenest, and the other settlements in the area is because of your power. Your majesty.

“And they offer you … what? Small trinkets and farmland? It’s barely enough to fill a Dragonborn’s hoard, never mind a Great Dragon’s … or that of Tiamat herself! It is an insult! I’ve spent my whole life trying to learn about the progenitors of my line and race, to come towards the greatness of the true Dragons — of yourself — and I know that this is all petty and beneath us. Beneath you.

“You could have destroyed this town many times over. You could have killed myself and my group: whom Mondath wants dead. But that is also beneath you. You know your power, and I think that you know theirs.

“I know I’m also not a Dragon. I am not of Tiamat either. I have an attachment to these humanoids: as a parent to their hatchlings. But I know you do not.

“So, I beg your indulgence once again, and ask you: why do you serve a sect that can’t even raid small villages without your help? And is there a way that you may be persuaded to spare Greenest, or at the very least leave those who would worship grotesque undead mockeries of beauty, and pay lip service to Draconic powers that they will never understand?

What can the Cult of the Dragon do for you? And what can we do to change your mind?

We await your answer, Great Lenethon. Thank you.”

In the end, after he nearly took offense to the first part of the speech, I shortened it to saying that the Cult was unworthy of him and had nothing to offer him. Then I asked what we could do to convince him to leave the Cult and Greenest. He gave us our quest. Now I hope to fulfill it … and not die for over a thousand years. And who said Level Two characters had boring adventures. 

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Do You Want to Know My Secret Identity: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

I haven’t had the opportunity to see any advanced screenings of Professor Marston & the Wonder Women yet and, as such, I only have the majority of positive advance reviews to go on. Nevertheless, the…

Source: Do You Want to Know My Secret Identity: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

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Back to the Past with Samurai Jack, Part 2

In Part I of “Back to the Past: Samurai Jack,” I began to look at Genndy Tartakovsky’s final season of his series in terms of its strengths and weaknesses with regards to its overall physical…

Source: Back to the Past with Samurai Jack, Part 2

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Back to the Past: Samurai Jack

So, this past while I’ve been ruminating over Samurai Jack. Originally, I focused on Aku and how ridiculous he is as a villain. However, like I said in my first article on the subject Aku…

Source: Back to the Past: Samurai Jack

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