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When a book, movie or TV show ends, fan fiction writers keep characters alive


Greg Elwell July 17th, 2008

Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls were meant to be together. Or maybe it was Veronica and Wallace. Or Weevil? MORE TO EXPLOREWRITING BY NUMBERSWRITING AND WRITHING Heck, maybe she was supposed to get...

fanfictions

Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls were meant to be together. Or maybe it was Veronica and Wallace. Or Weevil?

MORE TO EXPLORE
WRITING BY NUMBERS
WRITING AND WRITHING

Heck, maybe she was supposed to get down in a sapphic way with her best friend Mac.

But she was totally going to the FBI. Or what if she became sheriff of Neptune? Or maybe her dad is sheriff, but she takes over the P.I. business!

If you were a fan of "Veronica Mars" or any of the dozens of television shows cancelled every year, there's a chance you'll never know where the story was going. And for most people, that's OK.

But for a select few, it's not over until they say it's over. Fan-fiction writers pick up where their favorite shows, movies, comics and books leave off, often in wildly different tangents.

Some of it involves adventure, but many stories are romantic in nature. In one offshoot " so-called "slash fiction" " characters switch up sexual orientations, which leads to some unlikely pairings. Dr. Spock and Capt. Kirk? Harry Potter and Professor Snape? Fred and Barney? It's been done.

MORE TO EXPLORE
At the end of the final reel of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," Erin McGowen was left excited, enthused and "¦ unsatisfied?

"With the 'Pirates' series, you don't know what happens to the characters," she said. "There are so many possibilities that can be explored."

Some people are content waiting for the next film in a series to come out. Some might daydream a little or talk to their friends about what might happen next. But McGowen isn't much for waiting for a story when she can write one herself.

The 19-year-old Oklahoma City Community College freshman is a fiction writer first and an everything else second.

"I write all the time," she said. "Writing is basically my life. When I'm at work and there's nothing to do, I'm writing."

Some of her work is based on original characters and some of it is culled from the world of "Pirates" or Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series of teen-romance novels with vampires.

McGowen weaves a little romance into her stories, and not always in the direction filmmakers intended.

"I like a Jack-Elizabeth pairing," she said, referring to "Pirates" characters. "I wrote one like that, but once the third movie came out, I had to scrap it."

That's because McGowen sticks to "canon" " stories that flow with the original works " as best she can. When something she's written is in conflict with the movies, she repurposes it as "an alternate universe," although since none of it really happened, it's all kind of alternate.

It's a hobby that not everybody gets " her boyfriend included.

"It drives him nuts," she said. "He doesn't think it's bad, he just doesn't understand it."

WRITING BY NUMBERS
What's not to understand? Writer Rob Vollmar knows exactly what is going on.

A published comic-book writer and manager of Atomik Pop! in Norman, Vollmar said fan fiction is like a welcome mat for new writers trying to find their own voices.

"When I first started writing comics, I used characters I was already familiar with," he said. "It's easier to generate plots than it is to generate memorable characters. That's an advance-level skill."

Popular fiction is littered with hanging plot threads and minor characters that may never be seen or heard from again. For some writers, following up on those story elements is the easiest way to start.

"It gives them permission to be creative," Vollmar said. "They can do it without being so invested in it, because it doesn't belong to them."

The other plus in writing about Harry Potter or manga ninja Naruto or (dream a little dream) the British espionage series "The Sandbaggers" is that those characters come with a built-in audience. (Well, except for "The Sandbaggers.")

"It's kind of a paint-by-numbers process for getting into writing," Vollmar said. "You can't get paid for it, but you can do the work, get reader comments and hone your craft."

Southern Oaks Library in Oklahoma City recently hosted a fan-fiction writing class, taught by Vollmar, and a contest for the best local fan-fiction writers and artists, according to John Hilbert, young adult services librarian. It was the third year for the contest, the idea for which came from teenage library volunteers.

"Basically, you've just got 2,000 words or less to tell your story," Hilbert said. "What we received has been interesting."

And he means not just the content " stories based on video games like "Final Fantasy" and some manga " but from where it came.

"Some schools picked up on it and we started getting entries from (U.S.) Grant High School and Westmoore (High School)," he said. "There were people from all over, man. We even had some teenagers in homes for abused kids who entered."

The key to the annual contest is that is allows those who enter to be part of a community, Hilbert said.

That built-in community of fellow fans and peers is a big draw, Vollmar said. And then there's some fiction that's meant to keep people away.

Slash fiction is so named because stories are often marked by which characters pair up, separating their names with a slash. If Superman and Batman are making out in the tale, it's tagged as "Superman/Batman," whereas a story where the characters are merely friends would be "Superman & Batman."

Vollmar said his theory is that the homosexual element of the stories " written almost exclusively by women " acts as a "poison pill" to keep unwanted readers away. He said men might be less likely to read and criticize a work of fiction if it includes something they don't want to read.

WRITING AND WRITHING
Scaring people off doesn't seem to be the goal for slash-fiction writer Heather Moreno, 23, of Ada. She started writing fan fiction in 2006 " not because she wanted to continue with a story, but because she wanted to fix it.

"I had taken a semester from college off, had nothing to do and I remember watching this 13-episode show my friend recommended," she said. "I also remember thinking it was rubbish, thinking I could do better."

She found a lot of stories centered on the series online and decided to write her own. Like McGowen, Moreno authors original work as well, only working on fan fiction when she sees room for improvement.

Her slash fiction aims not just for titillation, but for a real plot.

"Explicit sex scenes are called 'PWP' " porn without plot," she said. "No matter what I write, I want plot. I want story. Just because it is slash " I prefer the term 'homoerotica' " does not mean one should sacrifice quality."

So why write it? Because it's not easy.

"This is done in between my original works, a way to exercise my skills or get through a block," she said.

Still, it's also fiction with an audience and Moreno has written for her friends and has amassed a few fans of her style.

"A few readers actually thanked me for not making the characters 'jump into bed' and making them realistic, even though it was a fantasy." "Greg Elwell

 
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