Thursday, August 2, 2012

Categorizing Fanfiction

Fanfiction is a tricky animal. Frequently, there is much confusion on what is good and bad in fanfics, based a lot on a wide variety of opinions. I am perfectly aware that I am a mere one person, and that my opinions are by no means an exhaustive, objective evaluation.

So, I decided to borrow a little help from TV Tropes (which is probably the greatest website you find if you enjoy stories and fiction, but ESPECIALLY if you write it). This is their page on Fan Fics:

In addition, there is a list of different types of fanfiction stories, as sorted by format, genre, or relationship with canon. I decided to take a few of these fanfic types, and speak a little about what I like (or don't like) about these kinds of stories, and perhaps give some examples.

Keep in mind, this is meant to reflect my personal opinion and taste, not rules for submitting to this site. Currently, the only types of stories straight up banned from this site are Lemon fics, Slash fics (most specifically non-canon pairings), and stories involving obvious Mary Sues. Just because I may not like a particular style does not mean I won't allow it. That would stamping on creativity, after all.

By format:

Drabble: This is essentially a really, really short fanfic. Some definitions say that it's exactly a hundred words, and some are a little more loose about it. Drabbles are best used as practice; that is, to see how good a story can be written in a given amount of space.

I typically don't write drabbles, since I feel they don't have enough room to develop stories as much as I like to. I also find this to usually be the case when reading drabbles, but I could always be proven wrong.

MST (a play on "Mystery Science Theater 3000): Commentary on another fanfic, with often snarky and usually hilarious consequences. A must-have for aggressive sarcastic writers. "What the Hell is This?" is a South Park example of this. "Dude, This is Pretty F***ed Up Right Here" would count, except that I wrote the "bad fanfic" myself.

Poem, Script, and Song Fics: Some of the more common alternatives to writing fanfiction in prose. They're pretty self-explanatory. Poem fics are written as poems, and Script fics are written in script form. Song fics are not exactly written in song form, but they typically use existing songs to show emotion, or expand on a character's point of view.

I typically write in prose, and I've had very little experience reading in the other formats, with the exception of SP Script fics and a good (partial) Poem fic called "Where the Hell I've Been At." So, hopefully, some of the other writers can help with that.

By genre:

Gen Fics: Basically, this category includes pretty much anything that doesn't focus on pairings. I consider most of the stories I write to be Gen fics, partially in defiance of this (seriously, it is bad when you have a specfic category that is "everything but pairing fics").

Gen fics are good because they are often more story based, as opposed to romance based, and the writing quality is generally better. Also, as with any good story, it's easier to work with the characters when you're more focused on actions those characters would plausibly do.

Lemons and Limes: These are the sex fics. Yeah, those stories. Lemons involve explicit sexual content, whereas in Limes, they're a bit more subtle, hinting at the explicit sex without actually showing it. Much like the difference between an NC-17 film and a soft R film.

It's not that sex is never allowed in fanfics, as in some stories it makes sense. However, this is not one of those cases. Usually, in Lemons and Limes, the sex is the story's only reason for existing. Or, to put it another way, sex is okay when it's actually serving the story. In these stories, however, the story is being written just so the main characters can have sex. And a good story shouldn't be just about sex.

For that reason, among others, Lemons are banned from this site, period. Limes might get cut a little more slack, but only if the story is really good, and that's ultimately up to our discretion.

Crack Fic: This type of story is the extreme opposite of Original Flavor. Not quite "so bad it's good," it's more like "so ridiculous it's awesome." TV Tropes points out that this is one of the easiest types of fanfics to write, but one of the hardest to write well. Crack fics can result in a lot of stories that are really stupid, but the good ones are the ones that take the concept of dialing ridiculousness up to 11, and turning it into an art form. Where you know it doesn't make sense, but then the Rule of Funny takes over, and you don't care. This is a tactic that works pretty well in crossovers (the Griffin family is trying to settle down in Springfield, until Darth Vader shows up and kills them all. Stuff like that).

I'm not often attracted to Crack fics, but one author who uses them particularly well is called Bow to me Fools BOW I SAY (how's that for a profile name), who recently joined this site (yay!). Her stories are just hilarious, but the truly jaw-dropping thing about them is that they can also be really clever as well (special mention for her ATLA/FMA crossover story "Return Trip").

Porn Without Plot: See "Lemons and Limes" above.

Next Gen Fics: This type of story takes place one generation (or more) after the main story. In some cases, the next generation of characters is canon (such as Harry Potter), and in others it is not.

Next Gen Fics are a common way to bring OCs into the story, usually as sons or daughters of the main characters. One strength that I see in these stories, however, is how it can portray the much older existing characters. For instance, speculation on what Harry Potter or the South Park characters would be like as adults.

Recursive Fanfiction: One of the things I always say is that strong fanfiction ultimately capitalizes on whatever it is that makes the original source so strong. That it should be based on the original source, rather than other fanfiction. Recursive fanfiction, then, is the exact opposite: it's fanfiction that's inspired by another fanfiction story. And given that the vast majority of fanfiction is pairings (including OOC ones), this is the sort of thing that's good to avoid.

Slash Fic: The main reason I bring this up is to clarify something that most of you probably already know, but it bears repeating. There are several definitions of what slash actually is, but this is the one I subscribe to:
  •  "Fanfics about characters who are gay (or bi) and already paired with each others in the canon do not count as Slash, [and] only uncanonical homosexual pairings qualify."
So if the story involves two characters that are canonically gay, I just consider that a pairing (granted, I'm not a big fan of pairings either, but it's usually better than being deliberately out of character). The difficulty comes because so many slash writers insist their pairing of choice IS canon, no matter how many times you calmly explain to them that it isn't (which is one of the many reasons to avoid pairings altogether).

Anyway, rant over...

By relationship with canon:

Original Flavor: I usually try to incorporate this into my stories. TV Tropes breaks this down pretty well.
If you are writing an original flavour fic, you don't introduce or kill core characters, revise continuity, or do anything that is non-canon beyond the events of your story. Original Flavor is exactly like writing a spec script you could submit to the showrunner, but not necessarily in script form.
Of my stories, "The Secret Rule" probably fits in this the most. Basically, it's about writing within the franchise's own canon, and also in such a way that it seems the original author(s) wrote it (John is pretty good at making his South Park stories like real episodes, even if their canon does branch off slightly). This is not quite as daunting as it first appears, since you're really only limited by what specifically did not or could not happen within canon. A particularly good use of this is to elaborate on an event that is mentioned but never properly seen in the franchise itself. Timothy's story "Mysterion is Born" qualifies as this, because it is an origin story. Two other examples of this include:
  • Specifying what happened in the infamous "Noodle Incident" in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip (I've seen this done before, and it's pretty awesome).
  • Letting everyone know what happened to Zuko's mother from Avatar: The Last Airbender (I plan to do this at some point).
And on the other side of the coin, we've got

AU (or Alternate Universe) Fics: These stories are ones that deliberately break canon, for some purpose or other. I'm not quite as big a fan of these, but there can be a lot of imagination involved when this is done well, especially in "What If" scenarios. A common theme for Death Note AU fics is to have someone other than Light pick up the Death Note, usually an OC. Sometimes this is done well, and sometimes it isn't. Kira Origins is one noteworthy example of the former.

I'm publishing this for now, but I'm slowly adding a little about each type. So stay tuned. 

1 comment:

  1. Character death is a hot ticket for me, especially Stan or Kyle. I'm a terrible person.