owlmoose: Picture of a beanie moose and a small brown owl (owlmoose)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2011-07-13 12:16 am

Writing, fannish tendencies, and the source

When I first became active in fandom, back in 2005, I was the very definition of "monofannish". I only wrote in one universe -- Final Fantasy X/X-2 -- and had very little interest in branching out. I would happily read fic in other canons, FF and otherwise, and I would write and talk meta for all kinds of sources, but when it came to creating fanwork, I was perfectly content to hang out in my own little corner. Friends would convince me to check out other sources, and I would often enjoy them, but never was I really tempted to start writing fic. And it's not as though I hadn't thought about it; once I got involved in fandom, I started looking at everything I read, watched, or played as a potential source of story ideas. But nothing outside of FFX and FFX-2 ever gave me anything powerful enough to be worth writing down.

Since those days, I have branched out a little, in that I am more able to take prompt ideas for fandoms I'm not really "in" and do something interesting with them: Sunshine, Star Trek, Babylon 5, other Final Fantasy games. But in all that time, I've only really discovered two new fandoms. The first was Final Fantasy XII. I played the game when it first came out, and wrote a few Kiss Battle and prompt meme stories, but I didn't get deeply into it in a fannish way until I replayed and, at around the same time, wrote three stories for the 2009 round of Final Fantasy Exchange. I was finally hooked, and I started considering myself a part of the FF12 fandom from that point on.

The second, and the first outside the realm of FF, was Dragon Age. I'm still in the first blush with this source, and I've only just started playing the sequel (about which more on another day), so it's hard to say yet whether it will last, but I have a feeling it will. Already, since finishing my first playthrough of Origins in April, I've published three stories, have several more in progress, and am devouring fic at a rapid rate. I haven't felt a creative rush like this since I first entered fandom, and it's got me to wondering: why? Out of all the games I've played since 2005, all the books I've read, all the movies and TV shows I've watched, why is Dragon Age the one that finally broke through? I've been thinking about it, looking for commonalities, and have come to a few preliminary conclusions.

1. I need a lot of compelling source material.
It is surely no coincidence that all of these canon sources are video games. And not just any games, but multi-hour RPGs, with tons of background detail, large casts, strong stories, and settings with complex history and culture. A game is many hours longer than your average movie, and unlike most TV series it usually tells a single coherent story, which I think helps me connect with the characters.

2. I need some gaps to fill.
This might seem to contradict the first item, but actually I think this is part of why games work for me as a source. Many books, especially series, will have the detail I need, but they don't leave as much unsaid, either. Games tend to elide a lot more backstory and character interaction, leaving me more room to play with the universe and the characters. I need a careful balance between Items 1 and 2, and so far games seem to hit it better than any other media. More often than not, I write a story because there's a question I need to answer. The more gaps there are, the more likely that many such questions exist.

3. I need a 'ship.
But not just a 'ship that I like. Plenty of sources have 'ships I like, even adore, without driving me to write about them. No, I need a complete and total OTP obsession, to the point that I need to know more about them, explore every facet, bring them together and split them up and reunite them and see what happens. First it was Paine/Nooj and then it was Ashe/Balthier and now it's Alistair/Warden, but the pattern is clear. (There are interesting similarities between these pairings, but that's another post, too.) This was the realization that came as the greatest surprise to me, because I write so much gen, and I sometimes look sideways at the focus of some fandoms on 'shipping. But it fits, too, because I am a character-driven writer. Even my gen tends to be character-driven. And romance can provide a lot of fascinating opportunities for character interaction. It occurs to me that, the times I've jumped into a new fandom, the romance has come first, and then as I've written those stories, new story ideas come to me: gen stories about the characters in my 'ship, different pairings, new characters. And so I branch out. It happened with FFX/X-2 and with FF12, and I imagine it'll happen eventually with Dragon Age.

So, now that I've gotten my tl;dr on, what's yours? What draws you to become fannish about a source, rather than just liking it a lot? Are there patterns, or is it more random? I'm curious to know if other people's experiences are similar, or very different.
sarasa_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2011-07-13 08:58 am (UTC)(link)
Much nodding in agreement while reading your post. For me, I've been semi-monogamous with FF12, but I do enjoy branching out from time to time (although usually just x-overs).

Related to your three conclusions, the marvelous tensions and possibilities between #1 and #2 are soooooooooo very much the reason why I can think about FF12 fic (or other FF fandom fanfic) for days months years on end. FFX and FFXII both have extremely rich worlds with oodles of compelling mythology, history, culture, and so forth. They're entire worlds just begging to be described in fiction.

#3: And romance can provide a lot of fascinating opportunities for character interaction.

Yes. That!

I never really cared for writing romance-driven plots before writing fanfic (admittedly, my fanfic romance plots are a bit odd ^^) but I do find that the romance itself is a super-easy door into characters' minds and that is really where I want to be when writing.

What draws you to become fannish about a source, rather than just liking it a lot? Are there patterns, or is it more random?

I think about that first question a lot because back in 1997-2000 I was insanely fangirlishly obsessed with FF7 yet I never felt compelled to write fic. Also, there are many, many books and movies I love but no, nope. No fic desires.

FF12+RW+FFT+VS compels me because Ivalice is such a rich multi-millennia world that mashes all of my political-socio-cultural buttons in really good writerly ways. I want to possess that grey-on-grey world and make it my own. ;)

Writing and planning Ivalice fic (definitely planning & drafting, as I've posted only a fraction of what I've written) has taught me a lot about the kinds of original fiction I want to write (which is different from what I had previously thought), the kind of world I need (although it doesn't need to be a magical/fantasy world), the kinds of character and conflicts I need, and so forth. But I can ramble on this point for hours…

Also, I've noticed that writing fic (or even just planning fic) makes me deeply like characters I didn't really 'like' when gaming. Writing character-driven fiction requires me to think long and hard about what's happening inside a character. Once an "a-ha!" moment happens, I suddenly empathize with the character and those moments of insight feel really awesome and create a great moment of writer's high. (Not that the resulting text is equally as awesome, but that's okay. There's always the big fat editing pile.)
sarasa_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2011-07-15 02:00 am (UTC)(link)
I wonder if there is a strange counter-intuitive thing happening in which more source material creates more gaps. RPG games that have 50+ hours of story would be more likely to fall into this bucket than other kinds of story-media. But, as for other media, I was also thinking B5 (points down) when reading your original post but I didn't include it. Also, the Harry Potter universe has oceans of source material.

When the canon is no longer than a single movie (90-150 minutes) or a single novel (300ish pages), the story is likely (but, obviously, not required) to focus on one principle protagonist who we only know through the one major conflict that is central to the story, and that conflict is wrapped up during the last few minutes/pages. Stories like that usually leave a sense of satisfied closure in me and that satisfied closure means I'm not likely to seek out fanfic (and probably not interested in an official sequel either, but that's another matter). Huge, sprawling canons with oceans of source material and multiple protagonists expose a richness that cannot be covered without a hundred of points of view and thousands upon thousands of hours/pages of story. Suddenly *any* minor character, even an unnamed bartender, becomes a potentially interesting character merely because their point of view can shed new light on Something We Care About.

So, yeah. The more I think about it, that tension between #1 and #2 is necessary (unless someone just wants to ship and write porn ^^).
sarasa_cat: (Default)

[personal profile] sarasa_cat 2011-07-15 08:24 am (UTC)(link)
An additional thought on RPGs versus episodic TV or book series: RPGs almost always cover a large geographic territory whereas a TV series or book series might not. Much like auronlu noted in her comments, vast geography invites story.

I wonder if games also appeal more strongly because of their interactive nature: actively playing the game versus passively watching a TV series. RPGs require you to actively develop character's skills, give them equipment, and actively make decisions for them (or be involved in their decision making even if their story path is pre-determined by the game script).

Also, despite a game's length, a significant portion of the play time does *not* involve dialogue. All of that low-dialogue questing/adventuring invites the imagination to fill in the gaps. This is very different from a book, movie, or TV series in which the author/director is constantly giving characters' thoughts and dialogue to you.
lowkey: (Men kissing?)

[personal profile] lowkey 2011-07-21 02:55 am (UTC)(link)
I kid you not, I've been wanting to write a fic about the bartender Aethyta. So I think you've intuitively hit on something here. Maybe more material means more surface area, and it's those rough edges and crannies that provide the little biomes that fic thrives in?
auronlu: (Default)

[personal profile] auronlu 2011-07-14 01:15 am (UTC)(link)
Ooo, juicy question.

A lot of yours fit mine too, most especially gap-filling.

There was a time in my life when Ship mattered more, as I started writing that silly porn to get over a breakup JUST as things were starting to go to...er...only they didn't. Catharsis, yo. Porn has almost disappeared from my writing, but the ship stuff allows for character, and I am a character-driven writer.

GAP FILLING is a huge, huge, huge part of my fanfiction writing impetus, particularly short pieces. Back when I was active in MYST fandom an age ago, I wrote a whole series called "Stitching Time" that was nothing but gap-fills.

A rich world is like a sand mandala; one wants to keep adding to and and expanding it.

Another big, huge, enormous one for me is VOICES. I have always been drawn to character actor voices in a big way. I don't expect hugely perfect voice acting, but interesting voices, moderately memorable lines, and bits of emotional punch packed into voice and words -- they grab me. This may explain why I'm hooked on and write FFX and to some extent XII more easily than the earlier games, even though I'm quite fond of VIII. Significantly, the only VII character I've written so far is Aerith, and I have a fairly strong sense of her voice in my head (mostly from the original Japanese VA in Advent Children). I am sure I will be writing XIII sooner or later, simply because the voice acting was strong enough that I have all the voices -- and the characters behind them -- nicely set in my skull.

I would also add MYTHOLOGY, MAGIC, and SYMBOLISM to my hangups that make me want to write. If they start mucking about with hope and despair, dreams and death, resurrection and reincarnation, gods and false gods and nature spirits and mystical foo...well, that gives me a familiar playground. I want to play with the same tropes. Although that applies to fandoms I've never written for: B5 and Vampire Princess Miyu and Utena.

Another biggie is landscapes. As TvTropes calls it, scenery porn. I wrote a lot of Myst fanfic back in the day, and it was very character-based, but it was also because I felt an aching love for the landscapes, the worlds -- especially the worlds that were damaged or lost by villains. Almost like wanting to keep Auron around a little longer, I wanted to make Riven live just a little longer, or Catherine's dream-worlds, or Channelwood or Myst Island itself. And likewise, when I write FFX fanfiction, the setting, the landscape, is often a character in particular scenes.

lowkey: (Sometimes a man wants to read.)

[personal profile] lowkey 2011-07-21 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
My very first fanfic-writing fandom was Warhammer 40K, mostly so I could write backstories for my tabletop army. But the inviting thing about the 40K universe was that it is an amazing mixture of your lists's #1 and #2—fantastic detail and depth in some areas, complete nulls in another, and a canon that is completely self-contradictory. So you take what you like and you make it yours.

The last part—this romance stuff—is all new to me, but I'm growing into it. I like to think my stuff is character driven, and romance is a pretty good drive, right?